Dasjah Martinez didn’t believe she was college material back when she was attending middle school in her hometown of Houston, Texas. Yet by the time she reached high school, her attitude began to change when attended college campus tours with the AVID program and connected with her Advise TX adviser. Together, they put her future plans into effect.
“My adviser and AVID teacher Ms. Neal believed in me and motivated me to apply to college,” Martinez says. “I became a straight-A student and ended up getting a big scholarship to attend UT Austin”
Now a Steve Hicks School of Social Work graduate (SSW, Social Work ’21), Martinez will soon be earning her master’s in social work at Texas State University. While participating in a service internship, as part of her bachelor’s program, she learned about the Advise TX program and realized it would be the perfect opportunity to give back.
“When I learned about the program, I liked the idea of starting with kids at the beginning of the school year and getting them on the right path,” says Martinez, who is a first-generation college graduate.
She soon joined Advise TX and started her career at Del Valle High School, where she is helping hundreds of students discover they, too, can make their college dreams a reality.
“Most of the students here at Del Valle come from immigrant families that have to work hard to support themselves and their families,” Martinez says. “This is an exciting time of year for them, but it can also be scary due to uncertainty. “That’s why it’s important for me to show them that I’ve made it, and they can too. I’m here to tell them this is their time to shine.”
At the school’s College and Career Center, Martinez works with both students and parents to demystify the college application process and to address anxieties about sharing sensitive information in student aid forms. She wants to show them she is fully invested in their future.
“Kids are very intuitive, and they can sense when you don’t want to be there,” Martinez says. “You can’t just do your work and go home. You have to be all in, and you have to build good relationships with both students and their parents to get them on board.”
No matter which direction they take, Martinez urges all her students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
“When my students are reluctant about college, I tell them, ‘You have so many options, but first you must fill out a FAFSA,’” Martinez says. “’And regardless of whether you go on to college or choose a different path to enter the workforce, you are going to be OK.’”
The best part of the job, Martinez says, is seeing the joy on the students’ faces when they receive their acceptance letters and scholarships. Whether they go to the Ivy League, a state university or a community college, she’s proud to see them leave high school with a plan.
“I always encourage them to do what they want to do, whether that means going to college, a trade school or enrolling in a certificate program,” Martinez says. “People have different dreams, and my job is to help them find options. I want them to leave my room feeling they can conquer anything.”
Looking toward the future, Martinez hopes to turn her two-year Advise TX term into a full-time job as a high school college and career adviser, where she has found her niche in guiding students toward a bright future. This is her way of carrying on the good work of her devoted parents, advisers and teachers who helped her along the way. She’s especially thankful for her Del Valle High School liaison who welcomed her into the fold.
“Ricky Perez makes coming to work even better,” Martinez says. “I love this welcoming atmosphere here, where we all help each other out so much.”
Learn More About Advise TX
Visit the Advise TX website to learn more about their good work in connecting recent college graduates with high school students to get them on the college-going path. Visit the national AmeriCorps website to read more about Martinez’s good work at Del Valle High School.