From childhood on, Michael Martin has wanted to be an attorney.
Now, as this first-generation college student prepares to cross the commencement stage at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, he is closer than ever to achieving that goal and realizing a future filled with options.
On Saturday, May 11, the Honors College student will receive a B.S. in Political Science/Criminal Justice, summa cum laude at the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony, at which he has been chosen to speak on behalf of the Spring 2013 Class as the student responder.
Martin's path to UA was not a traditional one.
The Detroit native is the youngest of four children who relocated to Akron with their mother after a series of hardships. Despite his career ambitions, college just wasn't a possibility after Martin graduated from Buchtel High School. Instead, he worked at a variety of jobs and even started his own cleaning business. But he continued to hit what he describes as 'brick walls' that fueled his frustration.
In August 2009, he chose a new direction, becoming a student at UA, where he knew no one and was not at all sure he belonged, especially in his first days on campus.
"I realized that I had gotten myself into something that I had never seen before," recalls Martin. "That something was the ultimate path to success. So I refused to give up, because in order to get to it, you have to go through it."
Martin's hard work and perseverance earned him a place in the Honors College as he pursued a dual major in political science/criminal justice, along with minors in criminal justice technology - law enforcement, conflict management and sociology. The 2012-2013 recipient of The Rev. Dr. Thaddeus A. Garrett Jr. Scholarship, Martin also is a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, Golden Key International Society Honour Society, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Pi Sigma Alpha.
Another door opened for Martin when Coleen Curry, director of Academic Achievement Programs, hired him as a student assistant to work with potential first-generation and low-income high school students. For his work, Martin was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Upward Bound Classic Program.
As he mentored the younger students, Martin found his own mentors. Among them, Lee Gill, UA's associate vice president for inclusion and equity/chief diversity officer, and State Rep. Vernon Sykes, with whom Martin served an internship through the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.
While an intern with Sykes, Martin worked on H.B. 524, designed to reduce recidivism by increasing employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records. That experience served him well in a second internship, this one with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. During his time there, Martin helped to assess prisoners to determine the supervision level they would require while on parole.
The opportunities provided through his Akron Experience have only strengthened Martin's resolve to pursue a career as a criminal defense attorney and, perhaps, to one day become a legislator himself.
"I want to fight for equal justice and equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of their race, sex or socio-economic status under the law," says Martin.
But the young man who once found only brick walls, now sees a future with possibilities.
"I’ve been offered a graduate assistantship here in the Department of Political Science," says Martin with a smile. "Law school is still my first choice, so I have options."