Updated: Nov 8, 2019
To know Glenne Martinez is to understand why this young woman thinks sleep is overrated. In the three years she’s been attending college, she’s worked multiple jobs while balancing classes, squeezing in homework and projects during her lunch break and somehow finding time for laundry, housework and well, eating.
“It’s really not hard for me,” the Hillsborough resident says recently, in between bites on her lunch hour. “It’s just something I have to do to get my education. As long as I’m getting closer to my degree, I’m OK with getting only a couple hours of sleep each night.”
Her work ethic comes partly from her parents, who brought their family to the United States from Peru in 2001. Glenne watched her mother and father work toward their version of the American Dream before setting out on her own path. She’s always known higher education was the ticket; she just wasn’t sure how to finance it.
Then she met Billy Staples during her senior year at Hillsborough High School. He was leading a seminar hosted by a Latino club at Raritan Valley Community College in nearby Branchburg.
“I would love to be a BEST mentor some day.”
“He mentioned affordable secondary education, and I paid attention,” Glenne recalls. “I was already thinking of attending Raritan Valley because it was affordable, so I applied and got a BEST scholarship that did help me. I also got a mentor, who was very encouraging. I remember speaking with her when I was having difficulty financially, and she pointed me to a criminal justice scholarship at Raritan Valley. I applied and got it, which was very helpful too.”
Glenne also got hit the jackpot with Judy Tierney, who always seems to understand Glenne’s unique challenges. “I once called her when I was going through a big financial issue and I was afraid I was going to lose my class because I needed to take it at a specific time,” Glenne says. “She calmed me down, pointed out other scholarships, payment plans and loans. Judy has always been very understanding and encouraging.”
Glenne has since earned her associate’s degree in criminal justice from Raritan Valley and now is working toward her bachelor’s in the same field at Rutgers University. Only now her tuition bills have skyrocketed, due to the schools’ different policies on immigrant students.
At Raritan Valley, she was charged in-county tuition, but Rutgers charges her the much higher international rate of close to $3,000 for one course. She can’t even apply for a renewable Phi Theta Kappa honors scholarship because she is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. And she can’t apply for a green card until February—three years after she received her work permit at age 18.
Still, she’s plugging away. Taking one course at a time until she gets her green card, which she expects next summer. That’ll be just in time to register for the Fall 2016 semester, when she can schedule five or six classes for about $6,000. “Things will move much faster then,” she says, and get her that much closer to law school.
She’s getting great law experience at her paralegal job, which has validated her chosen career path. “The law is something I understand and enjoy researching and writing about,” she says. “I’m still trying to find what type of law I want to practice, but I’m interested in immigration, family or corporate law. And yes, I do love to read!”
The prospect of going to school full-time, in addition to working full-time doesn’t even faze the young woman for whom sleep is a luxury. “I’ve done it before, taking four classes at RVCC, working two jobs,” she says matter-of-factly. “I’m very organized and I set my priorities for my education.”
As busy as Glenne is these days, she makes time to attend the annual BEST banquet and donate prizes to fundraisers such as tricky trays and silent auctions. As she gets closer to her professional goals, though, she sees an expanded role with the organization that helped her clear the financial hurdles she has faced.
“I would love to be a BEST mentor some day,” she says. “I’m already a mentor at my church. I enjoy helping people, and I’ve been through a decent amount of things. I’ve faced financial turmoil and could help students find ways to ease their financial stress when it comes to paying for college.”