Building Leadership Skills by Pursuing Scholarships

Paying for tuition while building leadership skills is a dream situation that many college students may not be aware they can position themselves to be in.

Serena Martinez, the Senator of Inclusive Excellence with the Student Government Association at the Community College of Aurora, has found a way to do both by pursuing scholarships. Martinez is the recipient of the Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship, the Latin American Educational Foundation Scholarship (LAEF), Latina First Foundation Scholarship and the Leader-in-Residence with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).

Serena Martinez

For Martinez, being the child of Mexican immigrants and attending a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution like CCA has made all the difference in her academic career.

“It makes me feel like I’m in an inclusive space where I can be myself and with other students. It makes me feel like I belong,” Martinez said.

The four scholarships align with Martinez’s ultimate goal of becoming an immigration attorney. Having parents and family from Mexico City, Mexico, Martinez believes there needs to be a bigger focus on immigration law in America. After CCA, Martinez plans on transferring to the University of Colorado Boulder or the University of Denver to further her studies.

Left, Dr. Bobby Pace (VP of Academic Success)
Middle, Serena Martinez (Scholarship Recipient)
Right, Dr. Mordecai Brownlee (President)

For the Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship, Martinez will receive $1,000 a semester. The LAEF scholarship provides $2,000 for the academic term. The Latina First Foundation provides $3,000 for the academic term. HACU is a competitive program that provides leadership and scholarship opportunities. Martinez said part of the HACU scholarship involves the ¡Adelante! Leadership Institute Sponsorship, where she will be flown to San Diego to attend the annual event and meet other student leaders.

Each of these scholarships requires Martinez to be in good academic standing, typically with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Some required an essay on subjects such as leadership and what direction Martinez wants her career to take.

“Students, especially first-generation and immigrants, may feel intimidated when it comes to applying for scholarships.” Martinez believes students should get involved with extracurricular activities and become more involved in their education.

“I believe that students should go ahead and take the risk. Get involved and make your dreams into a reality,” Martinez said. In addition to being a member of the student government, Martinez works at Panda Express as a shift leader and the TRIO office as a Student Office Assistant, a Phi Theta Kappa officer, and a member of the Latinx Student Alliance.

For students who are unsure how to advance their education at CCA, Martinez said TRIO Student Support Services is a great resource.

“I am very happy and beyond grateful for the support. I wouldn’t be where I am today without TRIO,” Martinez added.