From my experience talking with Juan Martinez, a graduate of ’95, change is something that he doesn’t shy from. Originally from New York City, Juan decided he wanted an intimate, small school experience, where he would know his class mates. Embracing the change from the big city to quiet Potsdam, Juan describes Clarkson as a place that changed his life.
In addition to studying accounting, Juan was editor of “The Clarkson Integrator” for 3 years. During his time as Editor, Juan realized he enjoyed working within communications and journalism. After leaving Clarkson, Juan received a job in Public Broadcasting at a station in Binghamton and later went on to work for Sesame Street back in his home of New York City. During his time working on Sesame Street, Juan became involved in the marketing department as well as within internal communications.
After his work on Sesame Street, Juan moved to Massachusetts where he became very active within the political community after a friend of Juan’s ran for state office. Shortly after, Juan ended up working as Press Secretary for Governor Patrick during the governors first term.
Juan’s interest in politics began during his time at Clarkson, when the mayor of New York created a joint task force with the university and the town of Potsdam. Juan became very involved in the program which lead to him furthering his interest in politics which stemmed from his father. Juan claimed his dad, who was very active in New York City Politics, often dragged Juan to meetings as a kid.
Impressed by his strategic communications skills, a member of the Bill and Melinda gates foundation reached out to Juan to discuss a position as a senior program officer on the policy and advocacy team which Juan accepted and began in January of 2011.
Now experienced in State politics, Juan again embraced change and moved to Washington DC; inspired to try his hand at National work. In DC, Juan worked to find programs, that were worthy of receiving grants from Gates foundation. The programs receiving the grants were often helping solve health and development problems in developing countries.
This inspired Juan’s most recent work with “Hello Future”. Less than a year old, the intentional NGO, focuses on the millions of Syrian Refugees who are primarily in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Juan journeyed to a permanent refugee camp in Silemania, Iraq for three weeks to analyze the success of the program and discover ways to improve it. Juan states that on the News, we see in the moment crisis which shapes our perspective of the country, Juan wants to bring attention to “what happens when that crisis is over”. A fear of Juan’s is that we will lose a generation of youth, whose lives have been impacted by conflict. Juan hopes to bring attention to the fact that as a world we will be faced with a lost generation of youth who suffer from a lack of education
Hello future works to educate these refugees by offering mobile education on cell phones. Most students in the cohort have never owned a phone. If the students in the program go through the five-week intensive course and graduate, they are allowed to keep their phone as a graduation gift to further practice their digital literacy skills. The students practice things we take for granted such as Gmail and social media, amongst other skills, which give the students a voice to be heard. In today’s digital age, these tools are essential for being successful. Juan credits his success to his openness to opportunity, stating that “opportunity may be right in front of you but if you aren’t open to it, you will miss out”.
At the end of my discussion with Juan he stated something that I, like many of those who have been lucky enough to call Clarkson home, would agree with. Part of the reason why he loves coming back here is the people. He states that it has always felt like a family and since his first day he has been treated like a member.