Ask Tommy Martinez how he got to NYU, and he’ll tell you a story of transformation. At the age of 16 and in just nine months’ time, he learned how to box, lost 70 pounds, and gained a self-assuredness he never realized was possible. By senior year of high school, his top-of-the-class grades and hard-won success found their purpose: an NYU acceptance and a scholarship to the Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Let’s see: Passionate. Determined. Tenacious. But I wasn’t always that way. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, my peers never accepted me. I tried hard to fit in and earn their approval, but I was the nerd who got straight A’s; I was the fat kid. They were constantly calling me names and breaking my glasses. My self-esteem was so low. The bullying only stopped when I started ninth grade. I understood that high school was my chance to start fresh, so I applied to the Give a Kid a Dream boxing program for inner-city youth.
For the first time, I met people who supported and inspired me. They taught me to stand up for myself and set goals. Just eight months after joining the program, I had lost 70 pounds. It was then that I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to, so I dared myself to apply to NYU, and I can still picture the moment I found out I got in. It was a Saturday morning. I read the acceptance email and was in disbelief. A scholarship? I had received the Leonard N. Stern New York City Scholarship! How did I earn that kind of trust? I knew I was going to have to keep being scrappy.
This first year at NYU has blown my mind! I’ve made friends at game night in my dorm and learned about the Stern groups at the club fair. I’ve gone to Broadway shows with my cohort; I really loved Stomp NYC, which I saw in an Off-Broadway theatre near campus. In my Business and Its Publics class, we had many guest lecturers—Ian Bremmer was my favorite. My scholars group went upstate on a leadership retreat too. There’s always so much to do. I don’t know how I will challenge myself next, like I did with boxing. Right now, just taking advantage of all that NYU has to offer is enough.