Emanuel Martinez: From Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League

At Essex County College, Emanuel Martinez is wrapping up a series of workshops meant to empower community college students to transfer to four-year colleges. A native of Mexico, Martinez moved to Passaic with his family at age 7. When his mother discovered that he was gay, Emanuel left home and spent nights in a homeless shelter. Yet he managed to attend ECC, earn a 4.0 grade point average, and transfer to University of Pennsylvania, where he is now enrolled in Latin American Studies.

“The problems of college access are not only an issue that affects undocumented students,” Martinez said, “but it affects urban communities. It affects students of college communities, students with low incomes, low resources. We all have these common experiences.”

We interviewed Martinez as part of an ongoing series of profiles to examine the lives and struggles of immigrants and their communities in New Jersey.

While attending Essex County College, Martinez decided upon the strategy of applying to an Ivy League college and seeking financial support. He received a $90,000 award from the Jack Kent Cooke foundation to attend Penn.

“I actually come back every year, to not only give them the steps of how to go about transferring, but to tell them about our stories.”

Martinez is studying migration in context with his own experience. “Whether borders are restricted or not,” Martinez said, “people will continue to migrate if it’s going to ensure their survival.”

The video was produced by Beth Kruvant, a Montclair-based documentary maker, and Jack Smith IV, a student in the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State.

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