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Quartet Credits USC Trio Program

Quartet Credits USC Trio Program
A quartet of sister scholars, from left: Deborah, Blanca-Maribel, Dina and Miriam Martinez

One by one, Blanca Martinez prepared her daughters for success. She gave up her job and essentially her life to drive them six days a week to the 32nd Street/USC Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School and to special afternoon and Saturday classes at USC Trio.

And one by one they have made it through high school, graduated from the USC Trio program and are now all going to four-year state universities.

Debbie, the youngest, graduated in June from the 32nd Street/USC Visual and Performing Arts School and will be attending the University of California, Riverside.

“I know my mom could have gone to school if she would have known what resources were available for her,” said Miriam, the eldest, who will graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, next spring. “That is why she made sure that all the resources possible were available to us.”

Miriam, who is studying Latin American literature and architecture, is now prodding her mom to finish her education. Because Blanca Martinez’s education was interrupted by the outbreak of the El Salvador civil war, she never earned a degree.

It wouldn’t be the first time the matriarch of the family returned to school, said Blanca-Maribel, the third daughter. In order to get a free computer, her mom completed a semester-long course at the USC Community Computer Center. Once her lessons were complete, she took home the computer.

“My mother is always the one pushing us to take advantage of the opportunities we had and were being offered,” Blanca-Maribel said. “She is the perfect example for us.”

In addition to the efforts of their parents Ricardo and Blanca, the daughters also credit the USC Trio program for getting them to college. USC Trio, which helps students in South and East Los Angeles, is part of a federally funded national program for students who would be the first in their family to attend college.

The program starts in junior high and continues through high school with tutoring, Saturday classes and many other programs that focus on science, math and reading. Instructors help with applications, financial aid documents and the many forms needed to make that daunting leap to college.

More than 80 percent of the students who graduate from USC Trio go on to college.

“Although my mom wanted us to continue our education, she did not know how to get us there,” Miriam said. “USC Trio gave us the resources and the means to get there.”

Dina, the second daughter, agreed: “It was because of USC Trio that I went to college. They took us to college tours and helped us apply. With the classes that they provided, I was able to maintain my high grades.”

Blanca-Maribel, a language studies major in her second year at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said her mother let nothing stand in the way of school.

One time the car kept stalling while driving. So Blanca Martinez made the girls get up for school an hour early and then drove surface streets to USC – stopping every few miles to restart the engine.

“To be honest, I don’t think I made any big sacrifices. Being part of the USC Trio program was fun,” said Blanca-Maribel. “My mom, on the other hand, that wonderful woman was like Superwoman. There was never an excuse when it came down to our education and attending Saturday Academy; not gas prices, not car problems, nothing.”

Dina recalled the effort it took to reach the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is a Spanish and sociology major.

“I remember once I was angry because I didn’t want to stay for after-school tutoring,” Dina said. “My mom told me that she would not give me rides anymore and that she would not bring me to the program anymore, so I just said ‘OK.’

“Then she was like, ‘You know what – you are still going to go no matter how hard it is.’ I think that’s when I realized that it was a sacrifice that we both made.”

To view a video of the family’s story, visit

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