Growing up, Ingrid Martinez sought the confidence she needed to go to college. The journey seemed vast, the knowledge seemed unreachable, and the academic support was nonexistent. Now a senior at Ánimo Ralph Bunche Charter High School, all that has changed. Today, Martinez is unwavering in her conviction to succeed and become the first person in her family to attend college.
She attributes her newfound confidence and college preparedness to the supportive learning community at Ánimo Ralph Bunche and Senior Bridge, Green Dot’s free four-week college preparedness program.
Crossing the Gap
This past summer, Martinez joined Senior Bridge, where she and over 230 transitioning Green Dot seniors got a headstart on college applications. During Senior Bridge, students receive feedback on their Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) for University of California admission essays; build strong extracurricular activity lists to make their applications stand out; and select competitive colleges and universities they will apply to before the end of the fall semester.
During the course, which was virtual this year due to the pandemic, Martinez appreciated the small working groups, the ample one-on-one time with volunteer experts, and the opportunity to relate to her peers. “If it wasn’t for Senior Bridge, I would be all over the place,” Martinez said. “It made me feel confident, because I was going into my senior year with a career and major decided.”
Students also heard from guest speakers and worked with volunteers who provide college and career exposure and help students hone their writing skills. At the end of the four weeks, students are well equipped to submit their college applications. In middle school, Martinez couldn’t imagine life after high school. “I had the mindset that I was not going to make it to college. Now it’s crazy to think I’m one step ahead, and I’m on the path,” Martinez said.
Martinez plans to major in psychology and is committed to pursuing a career pathway that allows her to mentor and support foster youth. So far, she has applied to University of California schools in Los Angeles, Merced, and Riverside. And she has submitted applications to California State University campuses in Los Angeles, Pomona, Fullerton, and San Luis Obispo.
A Bunche of Support
“Ánimo Ralph Bunche changed my life completely,” Martinez said. “The school makes you feel at home. And they have prepared us with ACTs, SATs, and writing.” Martinez said that over the last three years, her English teacher gave her the attention, time, and encouragement she needed to excel. “Comparing how I used to write my essays from 9th grade to now, it’s like ‘wow’ that’s a big change,” she said.
Alexander Carpenter, the college and career coordinator at Ánimo Ralph Bunche, has seen Martinez develop academically and socially since her freshman year summer orientation. “Ingrid really struck me as someone who is motivated, not only for professional or family reasons, but really for the community,” Carpenter said. “She sees higher education as her next step because she wants to make an impact on our community.”
Carpenter says Martinez grew to look for leadership roles in high school. As a junior she served a campus leader for Link Crew, a nationwide leadership organization for high schools. As a leader and upper class student, she mentors freshman and sophomore students and helps them develop leadership skills.
“When I got to Ánimo Ralph Bunche, I was a very shy girl and over time they pushed me,” Martinez said. “It’s like they were watering flowers, and then the flowers bloomed.”
At Green Dot, our schools invest in enrichment opportunities that help students build confidence and excel academically. Senior Bridge is one of several Green Dot programs that help prepare first generation students for their journey to college. Coupled with college readiness opportunities, college tours, and dual enrollment programs, we’re equipping all students with the tools they need to be successful in college, leadership, and life.