CPP Magazine

A Turning Point

Cristian Martinez

About Project Success

Project SUCCESS is a mentoring program designed to improve the graduation rates of African-American, Latino and Native American male students. The program received $100,000 from the California Community Foundation.

Christian Martinez: 'Project Success gave me a sense of belonging at Cal Poly Pomona'

The first email I received about the Project SUCCESS program went ignored.

It was the summer of 2016. I had just graduated from high school and wanted to enjoy my free time before I started college. So when Byron Howlett, the former interim associate vice president and dean of students, and Tim Alexander, the coordinator of the program, emailed me to see if I would be interested in joining Project SUCCESS that fall, thinking about academic support and mentoring was the last thing on my mind.

On my first day of school, I was nervous because I had never visited the campus and had no friends. I moved to Pomona from Carson, which is about an hour from campus. That quarter, I had classes from 8 until 11 a.m. every day. I thought this would be great for me. My classes would end early, and I would have the rest of the day to study and go out.

Acclimating to the quarter system was tough. I ended up just going to class, skating home to the off-campus room I rented and completing my assignments.

After a couple weeks, I realized I never went out. I had housemates who struggled with substance abuse, which forced me to stay in my room because that was the only place I felt safe. The stress affected my mental health, and I had no one to confide in or ask for help. I was lost and alone.

Toward the end of the quarter, I received another email from Dr. Howlett notifying me that Project SUCCESS was accepting new applicants for the winter quarter. I had let this opportunity slip out of my hands before and didn’t want to repeat that, so I applied and was blessed to be accepted into the program. 

This was the turning point in my college journey and life. Project SUCCESS gave me a sense of belonging at Cal Poly Pomona that I had never had before.

In my first year, I recall my first community gathering. I was super nervous because I had joined the program late and I didn’t know anyone. I was an introvert and when I got to the event, I just sat in the corner. Tim approached me and introduced himself; he told me how excited the program was to have me.

This moment changed my life. Never once was I ever told that someone was excited to have me, let alone a program. I immediately felt welcomed and gained a sense of brotherhood and family from that day forward.

In my second year as the Project SUCCESS co-intern, I worked closely with our lead intern, Francisco Martinez, assisting him with tasks such as conducting an inventory of supplies, printing out packets and planning seating for the Preview Day and the end-of-the-year banquet. As the school year wound down and Francisco prepared to graduate, I transitioned into the lead intern position.

I have been blessed and am grateful to continue working for this amazing program in a leadership role in 2018-19.

I am thankful for the program leaders and the whole organization for everything it has done for me. The program saw something in me that I never did. Project SUCCESS gave me a second opportunity that I will cherish forever. If it were not for Dr. Howlett and Tim Alexander recognizing a need on campus for men of color and allowing me to join, I probably wouldn’t be in the position I am in now. For that I am forever grateful and will continue being an advocate and mentor for men of color.

Cristian Martinez is a junior studying industrial engineering. He is the lead intern with Project SUCCESS.