Spending time with Melissa Martinez today, you’d never guess that she was once a college dropout. After excelling in high school, Martinez enrolled in Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with the best of intentions, but found the transition to college life at 17 challenging. Her college grades began to slip, and she found herself dropping out after two years with a GPA of 2.2.
Working full-time as a waitress to support herself, Martinez discovered more startling news: she was pregnant. With renewed focus, she completed her general education and biology core classes at De Anza and Butte Colleges and transferred to CSU, Chico. There, she pulled her once-rock-bottom GPA up to one of the top in her class, had a second child, tutored students in organic chemistry, and held a job in professor Dave Keller’s lab as a student researcher.
Martinez graduates on May 25 with a degree in biological sciences (cellular and molecular) and a minor in biochemistry. In the fall, she begins a PhD program at the University of South Florida and the Moffitt Cancer Center, the nation’s third largest cancer center.
“It feels like you have all the time in the world when you're 19 or 20, but the pregnancy really made me stop wasting time and get back to finishing my degree,” she said. “I view graduation as the beginning of the next stage of my life, with unlimited possibilities. While jobs may come and go and my position in a company can change, one thing will always be certain: I will have my BS.”
If the start of Adrian Sherrod’s high school career was an indication of the rest of his life, his future would likely look different now. After spending most of his young life in Mexico, his mother moved the family back to San Diego County for a fresh start, and the transition to the States was a rough one. When he wasn’t ditching class, Sherrod found himself in the principal’s office more times than he’d like to remember.
That all changed when he was introduced to running track and cross country. On the track, Sherrod discovered a measurable way to compare himself to his competitors and found himself gaining a sense of achievement. One of his coaches helped him attend out-of-town running events, and he was eventually noticed by Chico State coach Gary Towne, who offered him a spot on the Wildcat track and field and cross country teams.
The supportive environment at Chico State helped Sherrod blossom into an all-out track star. He became a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) cross country champion in 2011 and the runner-up West Regional Athlete in 2012. He placed 19th at last year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Championships and 27th this year, leading his cross country team to fifth place overall. A driven business major, he completed a competitive internship at a Bay Area electronics distributor last summer and will start a full-time job there in the fall.
In testimony to his dedication and commitment, Sherrod recently made the painful decision to forego his commencement ceremony—the first in his family—in order to compete in the 5K for the NCAA Track and Field Section Championships at the University of Colorado, Pueblo on May 25.
“I’ve always wanted to be great; I wanted to succeed at what I did,” Sherrod said. “[Coach] Gary saw my potential. Once someone believed in me, it was all I needed.”
– Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications