It was the trip of a lifetime. MiraCosta College student Melina Martinez returns to school this fall following a three-week summer tour across California for a Roadtrip Nation documentary featuring visits with a dozen notable community college graduates—from Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn to Telemundo co-founder Frank Cruz—who discussed their journey to a meaningful career.
“Seeing these really successful people, who went to community college and had the same sort of experiences as I did, is really empowering,” said Martinez, who begins her second year at MiraCosta College when the new semester begins August 19.
Roadtrip Nation is a nonprofit with a mission of impacting how students choose their path and illuminating what’s possible when they follow their passion. It has produced more than 30 documentaries since its first road trip In 2001, but this is the first Roadtrip Nation production done in partnership with the California Community Colleges system, which commissioned the effort.
Martinez, a 21-year-old DACA student, applied to take part in the project after seeing the trip promoted on Instagram. She and two others, one from Modesto Junior College and the other a kinesiology student from Orange Coast College, were chosen from among 200 or so applicants.
The trip aboard the nonprofit’s signature green RV began June 22. The trio’s first stop was with award-winning novelist Reyna Grande (Across a Hundred Mountains, Dancing with Butterflies, and The Distance Between Us), a former undocumented student who enrolled at Pasadena City College and went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing, and film and video from UC Santa Cruz and her master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Antioch University. Other interviews included Adam Balogh, an instructor at Laney College’s Machine Tech Program; Richard Fletcher, a guide supervisor at Hearst Castle; and Carrie Kneitel, creative arts director at the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“As a DACA student, I don’t really get to travel much,” said Martinez, who came to the United States when she was five and has lived in Vista since. “Getting to see different parts of the state and getting to know people who are thriving in California sounded exciting.”
Martinez said the trip made her reflect on her future. “We talked to a teacher in Sacramento (Hassan McWhorter) who said younger kids are always asked what they want to be instead of being asked who they are,” said Martinez. Others along the way emphasized that students need to follow their passion. By the time she returned to her home in Vista, Martinez had decided to follow her love of graphic design.
“I had been thinking about business marketing, but that’s not really what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was going down that path because I was more focused on the financial aspects of the profession.”
She hopes to transfer to a California State University campus, perhaps Cal Poly Pomona, next year. In the meantime, she intends on making the most of her time at MiraCosta College.
“It’s not just a beautiful campus, I mean it is beautiful, but it is the stuff that’s there for you that makes it incredible. Everybody is here to support you in any way they can. It’s a great school with great people and great services.”
Roadtrip Nation says the documentary will be available online this December.