Pacific student invests in the Stockton community

Semaj Martin

Semaj Martin ’22 

Despite being a legacy student Semaj Martin ’22 was not destined to attend University of the Pacific. As a high achieving student at Caesar Chavez High School in Stockton, her options for college were boundless. However, Pacific’s commitment to a student-centered education truly stood out to her.

“Other schools did not want to invest in me the way Pacific did,” recalled Martin. “Also, part of me wanted to prove to other minority students that this university is for them as well. Sometimes locals think Pacific is intimidating or unattainable, and I wanted to prove them wrong.”

Martin has always been passionate about serving her community and striving to be a planter of "fruit" for others to reap. For that reason, she is one of 10 Pacific students to combine their college educations with community service as part of the California Civic Action Program this fall.

The statewide program is funded by $3.2 million in state and federal funds, with an additional $667,000 in scholarship funds awarded to students after they complete the fellowship. It also expands Pacific’s longstanding commitment to community service while giving the 10 students—and 10 more to join in the second year of the program—immersive opportunities to serve Stockton’s vulnerable populations.

Martin and three other fellows were assigned to work at Sow A Seed Community Foundation in Stockton. Established in 2005, Sow A Seed incorporates youth development and mentoring programs that actively promote healthy lifestyle choices as well as emotional, social and physical development for youth ages 10-18.

"Being assigned to Sow A Seed has been a dream scenario for me because I am passionate about closing the education gap in our society," said Martin. "It has been an amazing experience working directly with kids in the community and seeing them develop."

The fellows have worked together to develop a virtual program that provides social, emotional activities for children to discuss what they are experiencing in life right now.

“We really built the program from nothing,” said Martin. “Initially we did a lot of research on social and emotional learning for children before planning out the program. Then we transitioned to focus on marketing the program to raise awareness in the community.”

Martin plans to continue her work and commitment to the community of Stockton after her term with the California Civic Action Program is completed. Following graduation, she hopes to work toward decreasing the opportunity gap for minorities in Stockton through education reform and policy changes.

"We need to break the school to prison pipeline in our society and close the academic achievement gap," said Martin. "My goal is to work as a mental health clinician with the Stockton school district to provide students with the tools they need to succeed.