Jessica Martinez named SUNY Norman R. McConney Award for EOP Student Excellence Award Winner

Event management major Jessica Martinez '20 has been named among a select group of students from across New York State to receive the Norman R. McConney Award for EOP Student Excellence. Recognizing students enrolled in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) who have overcome significant obstacles in life to achieve their educational and personal goals, the award was presented by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras in a virtual ceremony on December 14, 2020.

Since 1967, EOP has provided access, academic support, and financial assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Jessica Martinez, the only child of Mexican immigrants living in Middle Village in Queens, NY, was expected to study close to home after high school. But Martinez was determined to expand her horizons and decided to pursue her interest in a hospitality career by enrolling in a bachelor's program in event management at SUNY Delhi, a few hours outside of the city.

With extra financial assistance and a family-like support system, EOP helped Martinez through some of the challenges she faced along her college journey.

"Like any college student, I struggled with adjusting," she recalls. "Having the ability to talk through issues with my EOP counselors put me back on the right path. There are no words to express how much they have done for me. You always learn from struggles, and I wouldn't be here today without those experiences."

While Martinez was a quiet student in high school, she found herself becoming more active and outspoken on the college campus. She became the vice president, treasurer, and public relations chair for her sorority, Mu Iota Upsilon Sorority, Inc (MIU). She held jobs on campus as the front desk receptionist for the Resnick Library and a peer mentor for other EOP students. She also participated in volunteer efforts such as Relay for Life, and last spring she received the SUNY EOP Academic Achievement Award.

"Pushing myself to become active has helped me discover who I really am," she says. "I'm more confident in myself than I've ever been."

After the initial resistance to send their daughter away to college, Martinez says her parents are proud of what she has accomplished so far. She is the first college graduate on her mother's side of the family. Martinez wants to continue to be a positive role model for others in her extended family, especially her younger cousins who look up to her.

Martinez's plans after graduating this December include gaining work experience and growing her network in the corporate event planning industry.

"My 10-year plan is to open a tequila company and a bar with my friend. It's not going to be easy, and my parents think I'm insane, but I like a good challenge."

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