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Scholarship Recipient Highlight: Iran Martinez

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Published on September 16, 2022


Finding Wisdom in the Woods

Iran Martinez, recipient of six TTCF Scholarships, discovered her own determination in the wilderness.

As she was preparing to graduate from North Tahoe High School in June, Iran Pacheco Martinez embarked on her senior project—a backpacking trip with a friend to Glacier Lake in Tahoe National Forest. While hiking around the area, she worked on her map-reading skills, did a little bit of writing, and soaked in the beauty. 

The highlight, she says, was that the trip helped her reconnect with what she describes as the most important experience of her high school years—a month-long trip to Yosemite Valley with the group Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC).

“It was beautiful,” she says of the recent trip. “It was like ARC all over again, and it just felt awesome.”

During a month-long visit to Yosemite National Park with a cohort of fellow students, Iran Martinez decided to pursue big dreams.

Adventure Risk Challenge is an outdoor leadership program, and Iran says she’s “excited to share” the story of her ARC experience. In an essay composed for her TTCF scholarship application, Iran writes that the month she spent in Yosemite National Park between sophomore and junior years completely shifted her expectations of what was possible for her.

Before completing ARC, being a broke, working-class Latina had convinced me that I would always witness ‘The American Dream’ as a bystander, never be able to experience it myself due to my financial circumstances and legal status as a DACA dreamer. … ARC helped me realize my own academic gifts and allowed me to stop settling for mediocre academic performance with both my course scheduling and grades.

In an interview in late June, Iran talked about how it felt to embrace her ambition.

“I snapped into a whole new mindset,” she says. “I knew that I was going to come out of that shy-Latina stereotype. It was like a switch went off in me and I was like:

This is going to happen because I want it to happen. And because there are people that are willing to help me.

Ambition and Trust

Iran said the experience shifted her thinking in one more important way. “I was able to learn to trust those who are there for you and are willing to help you—which used to be very hard for me.”

Iran Martinez (R) shows off a certificate from the outdoor leadership program Adventure Risk Challenge, with ARC program coordinator Kaela Frank.

Her reluctance to seek or accept help is clearly connected to a self-reliance she learned at an early age. Iran recalls watching her mother, a housekeeper, leave home early in the morning and come home late every day. “This showed me and my siblings that you work for what you want; that nothing, obviously, is a given. I believe that is where I got a sense of independence, to be self-sufficient, and not lean on others so much.“

This sense of independence that she was developing as a young girl deepened when she was nine years old, and her mother was deported to Mexico. She says it fell on her and her brothers to help provide for the family. 

Today, rather than give voice to resentment, she says she feels grateful that she and her siblings were able to learn an important lesson while young. “I feel like it makes us independent individuals who understand that working for what you want is the way to go.”

This fall, Iran heads to Bowdoin College, a private liberal arts school in Brunswick, Maine. She says she plans to major in political science, and “to explore other fields of study like philosophy, English and Italian.”

From there, she plans to study law, and to spend her life working for social justice. She also looks forward to one day being able to hug her mom.

“She’s my best friend,” Iran says. “We FaceTime, we text all the time, we call all the time. We’ll see her again someday. It’s a for-sure thing. I’m very excited for that day to come.” 

Scholarships received: Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation Scholarship, Fred Motamedi Legacy Scholarship, McConkey Foundation Scholarship, Tahoe Donner Giving Fund Scholarship, Judge C. Anders Holmer Scholarship, Rotary Club of Tahoe City Scholarship