Spotlight | Former missionary helps minorities make it to college

Skyler Martinez – Royal High School

Skyler Martinez had anything but a typical childhood. The daughter of missionaries, her family lived in Asia and Africa before returning home to Southern California just before the start of her sophomore year. She entered Royal High School in Simi Valley a year after other students had the chance to build friendships and adapt to school life. “I have literally slept in the same tent as cannibals, but it was more nerve-racking starting high school,” she says.

She credits Royal teacher Brian Dennert with helping her navigate the school’s many offerings. With his guidance, she enrolled in AP classes and got involved with the school’s International Baccalaureate and music programs. She says she quickly realized how privileged she was to be able to pursue her academic goals. “I do believe that having a decent education should be a right of every single person, whether we are citizens of this country or not,” she says. “The type of education I’m able to get here is phenomenal and I believe anyone who doesn’t utilize it is truly wasting a multitude of opportunities.”

Skyler wanted to help more of her fellow students take advantage of those opportunities, so she joined a program that encourages Hispanic and African American students to take college-prep classes. “Many of the Hispanic girls at our school don’t feel as motivated as they could be,” she says. “They feel like they have to abandon their dreams to find a job to support their families.” As a Latina herself, she worked to show them by example what’s possible. “I’ve seen their eyes light up when they have the encouragement to pursue something greater beyond high school.”

Skyler also served as the Royal student council’s first Vice President for Academics and Arts. And in her spare time, she gives guitar lessons to refugees from Iran to help them acclimate to life in the United States. 

Because of her non-traditional education before coming to Royal, Skyler had to take summer school and jump through hurdles with admissions offices to get into college. But her hard work paid off and she’ll be attending Lehigh University in Pennsylvania this fall, majoring in biological sciences. She also has her heart set on attending medical school at Harvard, where she participated in a program for high school students last summer. Her ultimate goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon and continue blazing a trail that others will be able to follow.

Skyler Martinez

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