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    As Santiago Canyon College students, mother and son reach their goals together
    • March 25, 2024

    When circumstances caused Janette Solis Martinez and her son Jakob to be students at Santiago Canyon College at the same time, they took the opportunity to help each other get the most out of their education.

    “My last year was his first year,” said Solis Martinez, 41, who currently works at SCC as executive secretary to the vice president of Student Services.

    The unusual situation was a result of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Solis Martinez, a single mom, had been employed at a law firm for 20 years, where she’d worked her way up from file clerk to receptionist, to assistant, to managing the human resources department. When the pandemic hit, she was laid off, which devastated her.

    “I had built a career from out of high school,” she said. “I’m a first-generation American. What I learned from my parents was to work hard.”

    It didn’t take her long to pivot. “I just picked myself back up, dusted myself off and was like, ‘You know what? There’s nothing to do. It’s the pandemic. I’m going to go back to school.’ ”

    She enrolled at SCC as a full-time student while Jakob was in high school.

    “I was taking AP calculus,” Jakob Martinez recalled. When he saw how his mother struggled with her class in business calculus, he offered to tutor her, and she gladly accepted. “I was teaching her math concepts.”

    This was a lifesaver for his mother, who hadn’t taken a math class for many years. With her son’s help, she became more comfortable with the subject and eventually began thinking about a move into financial management.

    Solis Martinez was able to return her son’s favor by directing him to the many resources she discovered at SCC, in particular the Promise grant.

    “I encouraged him to sign up because I saw that he was eligible,” she said.

    The Promise grant is for California students wishing to attend a community college directly from high school. Jakob Martinez applied for and received the grant. His tuition at SCC was covered for two years and then eventually extended for a third year because he was a STEM student with a high GPA.

    “Early on, I was required to meet with a counselor and plan out an educational pathway,” Jakob Martinez said. “I didn’t know what direction I wanted to head.” When his counselor suggested engineering, he responded enthusiastically.

    His mother also told him about SCC’s Math Success Center. Again, Jakob Martinez took full advantage of this resource.

    “I would go there with friends, and we’d study, study, study, perfecting our math skills,” he said. “There were professors and tutors there to guide you. For three semesters, I really lived there.”

    Every night after school, mother and son had long conversations — Jakob as a STEM student and Janette as a business student — comparing their experiences and talking about what they each were learning.

    Solis Martinez applied to Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics in 2022 and received her acceptance letter on her son’s 19th birthday.

    “It really touched me because I was a 19-year-old when I was pregnant with him, so it just felt like full circle,” she said. “He just looked at me in the eyes and said ‘Mom, you did it.’ ”

    She is a student at Cal State Fullerton but has taken this semester off to work at SCC, an environment she finds exciting, inclusive and supportive.

    Now it’s almost her son’s turn to head to a four-year college. While he waits to hear from the last two universities he’s applied to, he’s getting ready for a 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Earth and Environmental Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden, a program sponsored by Chapman University.

    At 21, Jakob Martinez is looking forward to his summer in Stockholm. At the same time, he appreciates all the ways SCC helped him along his academic journey. In particular, he praises the SCC Trio program that allowed him to tour university campuses on the East Coast, visit New York City and visit universities in San Diego.

    “It’s a really exciting time right now as he’s getting ready to graduate,” Solis Martinez said. She credits SCC for helping her family move ahead with their lives — and this includes her teenage daughter Lilly who, while still in high school, is already taking classes at SCC.

    “This experience at SCC has given me the opportunity to help provide navigation for my children,” Solis Martinez said. “It’s allowed me as a parent to take the next step. I had no college experience before (coming to SCC). My parents taught me how to work hard, and that’s where I’ve always found my success.

    “At SCC, with all the community that is provided here, there’s so much empowerment, and the teachers are so personable that it just allowed me to take in so much and tap into this new resource in my life that I hadn’t had before.”

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