Student Success: Emily Martinez Bridges the Gap
By Ashley Kilday, Contributing Writer
For Emily Martinez, being involved is second nature.
The Criminal Justice major in her sophomore year is a student worker at the UHD Career Center, a new member of the Criminal Justice Honor Society Alpha Phi Sigma, and a part of Commerce Connects—a new student-led group dedicated to engaging in volunteer opportunities in the areas of Criminal Justice, Social Work, and Urban Education.
Martinez learned about the Community Engagement Grant program from Steven Villano, Director of UHD’s Center for Public Service & Community Research. “When I heard about the grant, I was interested and wanted to get involved,” she said. “My project, “Bridging the Gap,” involves working with The Bridge—a nonprofit shelter for abused women and children. The $1,500 grant will go toward creating bags for the women upon entering the shelter. We’re planning to make around 75 bags that will be filled with toiletries and hygiene products,” Martinez said. UHD's Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning sponsors the Community Engagement Grant program.
While Martinez has held leadership positions in the past, she is now needing to create goals and deadlines in addition to managing her student activities and studies. “It’s a new challenge,” she said. “I’m learning to put myself in positions that are not necessarily comfortable, but all for the greater good.” Martinez has recruited volunteers to help assemble the bags. Once the products have been purchased, she plans to open up between eight and 10 volunteer opportunities to students in Commerce Connects.
“I hope that first, we can provide some help for these women who have been through so much. I want this project to be the first among many working with The Bridge,” she said. “Right now, it’s the bags, but later it could be something bigger such as volunteering directly with the organization. I hadn’t heard of them before I got involved with my project; however, I now know they’re one among many Houston organizations that need this kind of help.”
Martinez has a heart for helping victims. “I feel this is really important,” she said. “You never know if one day one of us might be in this situation. We can build a foundation at UHD where we know people who want to help. By the time I graduate, I want more people involved in Commerce Connects.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.