ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: MARTHA MONTOYA
Watching our students achieve success – despite seemingly insurmountable odds – is probably the best part of the mentorship and teaching process here at Reality Changers. Personal stories of triumph make all the hard work worth it. Each of our students have their own unique narratives, and every story has its own share of encouragement, achievement, and overcome-anything inspiration.
Martha Montoya’s journey to Reality Changers is one of those stories. Martha’s own reality is one with little family education – in fact, she is the first person in her family to advance beyond high school in the pursuit of higher education.
We recently sat down with Martha to recount her path, which includes adversity, hard work, and the perseverance to keep working hard.
Tell us a little about your family background and experiences growing up.
My family wasn’t exposed to education beyond high school, which makes my whole journey more amazing and rewarding than I ever imagined. I’ve been in Reality Changers for three years now. It’s a great source of pride for me because nobody in my family has excelled beyond high school. So a big “change” for our family was me graduating high school and continuing toward a college education with Reality Changers.
I came from a household where nobody spoke English and education was an afterthought. Reality Changers stepped in and helped me get to where I want to go – and my family needs me to go!
Why did you apply to the Reality Changers program?
Part of the reason has to do with my family situation. As the oldest child, I don’t really have a role model through education. Beyond my immediate family, one of my older cousins was part of the program before me. I was in eighth grade at the time, so higher education really wasn’t a big part of my thought process. But talking with my cousin about Reality Changers was a big reason why I applied. I didn’t think college was for me, simply because it wasn’t part of my family.
If I had to pick the one event that inspired me to apply, it was a Reality Changers scholarship celebration I attended a few years ago. Many of the students had very similar stories and backgrounds to me, and that gave me some hope that a college education might be possible – so I applied!
I also have to mention the passionate staff and teachers at Reality Changers – they truly want to help people just like me. They made it easy to apply – why wouldn’t I want to be a part of this great organization? And the final reason I applied is that I realized I have to be a role model for my younger siblings because my parents simply didn’t have the educational background to be good role models in this area. That’s why I took advantage of the opportunity of joining Reality Changers! It’s one of the best decisions I ever made!
Talk about some of your favorite memories and moments at Reality Changers.
The one-on-one tutoring has been the biggest factor for me at Reality Changers. My teachers and mentors are always ready to help and push me to work harder. One of my favorite things about Reality Changers is seeing how hard work can pay off with more money toward college. For example, if I reach a certain GPA, Reality Changers lets me know about certain opportunities and scholarships available because of my hard work and good grades. Since I’ve been in Reality Changers, I really push myself to reach my academic goals.
One particular experience was my time at UCSD, earning credits toward college, which is pretty incredible. Not a lot of students go through the experience of living alone and meet people from different backgrounds at such a young age. This gave me a great head start and exposed me to campus life, which is great since I’ll be attending UCSD in the fall. I can’t wait to get started, mostly because of Reality Changers.
How has Reality Changers helped your future goals?
Through networking and having different experiences as a student. They showed me how to get out of my shell – I’m typically shy – and work with other people to help me reach my goals. I can talk anyone’s ear off today, which is hard to believe because I was so shy before!
So I would say just being confident in my communication skills is one area where Reality Changers has helped with my future goals.
What about your own personal goals? What actions are you taking to achieve them?
I would like to become a pediatrician. That’s my ultimate goal. But if I can’t become a doctor, I’d like to work somewhere in the healthcare field. This is personal for me since I’ve had family members who have struggled with health. My father had high cholesterol and was concerned that he was not even going to make it to my graduation, which made me sad.
Anything I could do to improve the health of my family, friends, and overall community is a lifelong goal. Reality Changers has helped open my eyes to different career paths, and my networking is helping me to work toward my goals.
Who would you say is your biggest supporter and how have they helped motivate you?
I really love my Reality Changers friends. They’re not just teachers or fellow students – they’re family. We call each other family because yes, I have my own family at home and they support me, but Reality Changers has really been the biggest family I’ve ever had.
The Reality Changers staff always motivates me, from building stronger relationships to networking with other people and much more. They really helped motivate me to stay on track because they know how passionate I am about education. I love all of my Reality Changers friends because they’re all supportive and always motivate me.
What advice would you give to students currently pursuing their dreams?
Don’t give up! I didn’t give up, and look where I am now! If you’re truly passionate about a certain major or field and you want to go towards it, but someone else is telling you not to for whatever reason, just remain focused on your goal.
Although it might be difficult, you always have to remind yourself that you have other supporters and people that truly believe in you. It’s going to be hard, but stay with it!
Look inward to yourself to find what inspires you, and take useful advice from other people. But don’t let their advice become a distraction. Stay focused, and stay true to yourself. Your dreams can become a reality – never give up!
Thanks to Martha for her insightful stories and helpful advice! With students like Martha here at Reality Changers, we’re confident the current group of students will realize their dreams – and inspire future generations to do the same! If you’d like to contribute to Reality Changers and assist students like Martha, please visit our donations portal.