The content of her TC Higher & Postsecondary Education courses on college access spoke powerfully to Diana Cervantes Martinez.
“I was seeing myself, especially in the literature, because I, too, experienced a lack of mentorship as a high school student,” says Cervantes. “I know that often no one will pick up on the potential of black and brown kids.”
I was seeing myself, especially in the literature, because I, too, experienced a lack of mentorship as a high school student. I know that often no one will pick up on the potential of black and brown kids.
—Diana Cervantes Martinez
At TC, Cervantes contributed to what she describes as “amazing classroom discussions” on college access by sharing her own experiences as a college-aspiring Latinx in a predominantly white Oregon high school where there was little college counseling. She also described her deep sense of isolation as a first-generation college student at the University of Oregon, living away from her family for the first time.
“Traditional students go to college to find themselves,” says Cervantes, a Gates Millennium Scholar. “They go to college to learn who they want to be and what they want to do with their lives. I didn’t have that mentality as a first-generation student.”
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Instead, she says, “I went to get a professional degree to get a great-paying job so that I could help my family financially and help them achieve the American dream.”
Yet ultimately she did end up learning more about herself, becoming a student activist and leader.
Teachers College enabled Cervantes to address a gap in her academic credentials – “zero experience in research” – by working on a study of teaching practices and learning in midsize, public universities.
Traditional students go to college to learn who they want to be and what they want to do with their lives. As a first-generation student, I went to get a professional degree to get a great-paying job so that I could help my family financially and help them achieve the American dream.
—Diana Cervantes Martinez
Her involvement with that project “opened the door” to another that Cervantes hopes to undertake upon entering a doctoral program in the future. Her goal is to identify and eliminate the obstacles that stand between Latinx males and higher education. She also seeks to ensure, through enhanced academic and social supports, that Latinx men who do attend college persist to complete their degrees.
Cervantes confesses to an ulterior motive: One of her younger brothers graduated from the same high school she attended and is now at a community college. And he wants nothing more than an opportunity to follow in his sister’s path to higher education.