Vee Martinez is an unstoppable graduate from the Colorado State University Department of Design and Merchandising’s Apparel and Merchandising Program. As a first-generation student in the merchandising concentration, she’s proudly broken down barriers and faced every challenge along the way with grace and positivity. You won’t be able to read her story without feeling inspired! Join us in congratulating Vee!
Where are you from, and what brought you to CSU?
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, around Abraham Lincoln High School. In my senior year of high school, we began doing college tours in Colorado to determine our post-grad plans. I instantly felt a connection with the staff and the culture at CSU. I felt very safe and comfortable expressing my identities, and I knew I would have the support to excel in the Apparel and Merchandising Program.
What obstacles have you overcome to get to graduation? How have you persevered through unforeseen circumstances?
Being first-gen is bittersweet. It’s beautiful knowing that you will be the first to graduate in your family. The beauty in that statement fades out when you are trying to apply to FAFSA alone. I was learning how to be a good daughter, friend, and sister, but I also was learning things that others may have considered practical (loans, financial aid, references). While others were already getting into college, I struggled even to get my foot in the door. I felt like I was ten steps behind even though I hadn’t started. I needed to find beauty in the struggle and come to terms with my circumstances. Crying isn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. Being the first-generation is not smiles and rainbows. It is challenging, and there are days you may feel alone, but that doesn’t mean you’re not capable. If you want something, it can always be yours. Never compare your journey to anyone else’s; comparison is the thief of joy. Continuously be grateful for the path you are on as it builds character. To my future first-generation students: know you are worthy of a college education, and you are a stepping stone for future generations.
How have your academic experiences here and your professors, mentors, and advisers helped you overcome these obstacles and/or be successful in your major?
Professors are indeed the foundation of the Apparel and Merchandising program. I do not believe the program would be as spectacular as it is now without their experience and knowledge. They were continuously honest and provided constructive feedback. All of our professors held us to a high standard which only made us shoot for the stars. The professors are compassionate, and you truly know that everything they do is for the best intentions of their students. I also had amazing mentors in programs I was a part of who continuously motivated me and kept me rooted: Dr. Yan, Ms. Jeanneret, Ms. Lester, Mr. Martin, Ms. Wysocky, Mr. Hayes, Mr. Ali, Ms. Amber, etc.
I am currently a Residential Assistant (RA) at Braiden. Being an RA truly helped me make an impact on others and gave me a place to call home.
My freshman year, Key Communities provided resources that genuinely helped me ease into college. Key Communities is a fantastic organization that I was involved in throughout my college years.
I also work part-time in the Lory Student Center at the Campus Information desk. This job allowed me to communicate with thousands of students representing diverse identities and backgrounds, improving my communication skills.
In my junior year, I participated in an internship for Target as an Executive Team Lead. This internship allowed me to focus on professional development and polishing my leadership skills. Target showed me the importance of leadership and its exponential impact on the business.
I took part in Fashion Group International, and the 2021 EMERGE Fashion show. These programs helped me further develop my knowledge in fashion. Also, they allowed me to implement creative strategies to increase engagement.
El Centro was also an office I spent a lot of time in. They continuously were supportive and provided me with a safe environment.
What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of during your time at CSU?
I have had the opportunity to be a Denver Scholarship Foundation Scholar, a Latina’s First Foundation Scholar, am graduating cum laude, and most importantly, a first-generation student. I did not come from a wealthy, glamorous family, but I would never change my upbringing even if I had the chance to. I learned the importance of hard work, consistency, and courage through my beautiful family. I not only passed a milestone for myself but for future generations. I know this is only the beginning, as I will continue to break generational curses.
What will you miss most about CSU?
There are no words to express CSU’s impact on my life. I never believed I would gain as much wisdom, knowledge, and connections from my college experience as I have. CSU was truly a memorable experience; I created a family that will last a lifetime.
What are your plans after graduating?
I will be traveling the world right after graduation to expose myself to different cultures and broaden my horizons. After I travel, I am happy to announce that I will be working with Neiman Marcus in February 2022 as an assistant buyer. I will select the right product mix, manage purchase orders, monitor inventory, prepare budgets, and provide administrative support.