John Martinez '22 making the most of MC opportunities

John Martinez making the most of MC opportunities

Nov. 13, 2019  

Ask Maryville College sophomore John Martinez ’22 what his future plans are after graduating with a degree in international business, and he answers without hesitation.

“Whatever I do, I want to take it worldwide.”

The 19-year-old student/entrepreneur is well on his way to achieving that goal, one step at a time. He’s already started two businesses:  Ice Cream by J, a pushcart business selling ice cream in the spring and summer; and Clover Clothing Company.

“I’ve been selling ice cream since I was in the eighth grade, and I started the clothing brand in my sophomore year of high school,” Martinez said. “That’s where I capture my creative side and my love for fashion and clothes.

“My clothing brand has always been inspired by Ralph Lauren. A Polo Ralph Lauren shirt is almost iconic. Anyone can put it on, and it’s like a status symbol, in a way. The quality is always there. It’s soft to the touch, and no matter how many times you wash it, it’s going to be soft. That’s what I was going for,” he continued. “The three leaves of the clover stand for affordability, quality and versatility.”

Martinez was named to the 20 Under 20 Class of 2019, which recognizes young leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs and visionaries of East Tennessee. He was nominated for the honor by his mentor, Claudia Caballero, executive director of Knoxville's Centro Hispano, a community center that promotes Latino empowerment and civic participation through education, workforce development, youth and family engagement and community-strengthening initiatives.

Caballero said she’s known Martinez about three and a half years, meeting him through his mother.

“When I met John, I loved his energy. He’s ambitious and he’s excited about life. He’s full of dreams and not scared to try new things, and I love his entrepreneurial spirit,” Caballero said. “He’s a hard worker.”

Martinez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, is attending MC through an Equal Chance for Education scholarship, an opportunity he’s thankful to have. He’s the eldest of four boys in his family, the only one not born in the United States. “I’m a Mexican-American,” he said. “Well, basically just Mexican but I’ve been here my whole life, so I’m American, too.”

Martinez chose Maryville College because of the interest the College took in helping him find the means to pursue his American dream. “They were going out of their way to show me love, to show me that someone in this country actually cared about me going to school, and they wanted me there,” he said.

His first semester as a freshman was a learning curve as Martinez, who commutes from Knoxville, adjusted to college life. “I didn’t know if I fit in or if it was the right choice,” he recalled. “That led into the second semester. I had made friends, and I wasn’t alone anymore. It took a while to feel comfortable at college, but I started my sophomore year, and now I feel right at home. I have made a close group of friends and I feel like I’ve found my place on campus – I’ve found my people. So far, MC has been incredible.”

Martinez has definitely made an impression on the faculty and staff at MC. Jan Taylor, MC assistant academic dean, met him in her First-Year Seminar class last fall. “He has mad social skills: polite, friendly, makes people feel seen, community builder,” she said.

Dr. John Gallagher, professor of management at the College, described his advisee as “earnest.”

“That is to say, he is quite sincere, and even intense, about his convictions, and at the same time, very open, interested and willing to engage with pretty much everyone he encounters,” Gallagher explained. “His earnestness extends to staying on top of his responsibilities, particularly his academic responsibilities, but I think that he’s always thinking beyond those responsibilities. No doubt he’ll accomplish much!”

Martinez has found several interests in addition to international business. “I’m really into music. I haven’t taken any [music] classes yet, but that’s an interest,” he said. “One of my other interests is philosophy. This semester, I’m taking a philosophy class, and I’m thinking of minoring in it.”

The energetic young man is also interested in math and graphic design. “I can see a niche for math. Everything is switching over to a more computerized way of doing things,” he said. “I’m definitely interested in taking a graphic arts class. I have a clothing brand, and I want to have the freedom to hop on the computer and create designs that I can put on the shirts.”

Technology piques his interest, as well. “It’s such a smart market for the world, and that’s what the focus is,” he said. “I mean, you walk in your house and you can tell it to turn on the lights, change the temperature. You don’t have to touch anything anymore at this point. I can see how dependent we are on technology in our lives. I see the beauty of it, and I marvel at it. I see myself being a part of that, someway, somehow.”

Martinez is as passionate about dispelling the myths surrounding DACA as he is about pursuing an education and being successful in his career. DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an immigration option for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16. Although DACA does not provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence, it does provide temporary protection from deportation, work authorization and the ability to apply for a social security number.

“I’m a DACA student, and I want to bring awareness to that,” he said. “We are grateful for our opportunities, we really are, and we hope to set a good example, especially for those who think we shouldn’t be here,” he said. “We really want to be here. We’re going to do everything in our power to show y’all that we have a place here. We’re not like what people think we are. We’re here to contribute. We’re here to better what was already amazing. Everything this country stands on, we’re here to add to it.  

“All I’ve needed is an opportunity to show that I can do it,” he continued. “I might not get it right the first time, and it might take a long time, and it might take a lot of work, but I want to show everyone that I’m going to do this, no matter what. I can’t see myself quitting, I can’t see myself stopping at any point.”


Written by Linda Braden Albert for Maryville College.

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”