Adversity fuels Erika Martinez’s passion and higher education helps her overcome a difficult journey

by Erika Martinez, Human Development student at CSUSM

erika1My academic and professional goal is to obtain a Masters in Social Work and subsequently become a clinical therapist and work with children and families who experience distressing (a special need in their life) events such as separation, loss, divorce, addiction, PTSD, lack of resources, and autism in high-need communities. I have personally experienced the financial and emotional hardships brought on by my father’s drug and alcohol addiction. As a result, I battled with situational depression and anxiety both of which have placed a burden on my social and academic development as a child. I continue to draw on my traumatic transition as a motivation to succeed. This adversity has fueled my passion to pursue higher education in a field that will impact the community. Hence, I want to provide therapy for children and families who similar to my own personal life experiences are in need of resources and support in a time of an overwhelming transition.

erika3Ms. Martinez with Raul Diaz, Kinesiology major and Dr. Noriko Toyokawaat the Student Winter Showcase at CSUSM in November 2016

My interest in Social Work stems from the support I was given throughout my adolescent and early adulthood years from school therapists, counselors and social workers working together to give my family an opportunity to overcome the obstacles in hand and hope for the future. For nine years I have witnessed my father’s attempt to battle his addiction, consequences of his battles have turned into unbalanced changes in his behavior. Growing up in a broken home has given me a reason to believe that my aspirations in life were embedded early on to give me a significant purpose, courage, and resilience. Now that I am older I realize that these trials were brought on to me, but do not define who I am nor should they stigmatize the relationships that I will develop in the future as a therapist.

nwncfr-2Led by Dr. Noriko Toyokawa, Erika Martinez (Human Development), Raul Diaz (Kinesiology/Business), and Rebecca Cruz (Human Development) won the best undergraduate poster presentation award from the Northwest Council on Family Studies (NWCFR)held on April 20 and 21, 2017 in Portland, Oregon.
erika2HD Student Rebecca Cruz, Kinesiology Student Raul Diaz, Erika Martinez and her cousin Melinda Segura were invited to Portland State University in April of 2017 to attend and present their research at the NWCFR. 

As an undergraduate, I did extensive and tenacious work in preparation for my graduate career. My preparation for graduate work includes being a research assistant for nearly two years where I, along with other research assistant peers have been invited to professional conferences. As a research assistant for Dr. Noriko Toyokawa Assistant Professor in Human Development, I have developed an in-depth knowledge of cultural sensitivity and have gained an understanding of what situations cause ambivalence within parent-child relationship development and how intervention-based support groups are essential to the well-being of both the caregiver and the care-recipient. As an academic peer mentor for first-generation, low-income and students with a verified disability. In this position, I was able to connect students to and guide them to the resources available on campus to students as well as practice my ethical skills as a point person. In addition to my academic life, I was also the founding President of the TRIO Student Association, in this role I have gained confidence in my ability to help prepare future leaders to believe in their goals by first believing in myself. All of these experiences, the research and leadership opportunities, have undoubtedly led me to develop academic skills that will contribute to my success as a graduate student

To enhance my professional skills, I am now a certified volunteer facilitator for bereaved children at the Elizabeth Hospice Center in Escondido, starting this February. I am nervous and excited about my future and anticipate what is to come. As for now, I am currently waiting to receive news about my application status for the MSW Program here at CSUSM for the Fall of 2018.