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Building Success

“It was a big change,” Marcella Martinez recalls. She had relocated from Nicaragua to the U.S. just before her senior year of high school.   

“Big change” indeed. She had just left her home and was in an entirely different culture during one of the most transformative seasons of life. For Marcella, all this change compelled her to consider her next big move: college. She spent a lot of time that year thinking about what she wanted to do in life. She already knew she wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps and attend The University of Alabama, but she still needed to figure out her major and what she wanted to do on campus.    

Marcella moved to Tuscaloosa for her freshman year at the Capstone and selected two majors, political science and economics. This particular combination of majors prepares students to excel in civic positions and matched perfectly with Marcella’s dream post-college city.  

“I knew I wanted to be in D.C. The city seemed so interesting to me, and it fit my interest and my majors really well,” she said. But first, she needed to be prepared.   

With a concrete goal and plenty of ambition, Marcella began looking at involvement opportunities on campus related to her majors and joined the Student Government Association (SGA) as a member of its Lobby Board. The Lobby Board is a team of students who serve as advocates on behalf of the SGA and all students at UA. They partner with other organizations on campus to raise awareness for political initiatives like voter education, registration and more. She began as a regular member and served as its director during her junior year, when she helped solidify the board’s structure and vision.   

It was kind of a newer group and so we were trying to see what worked and what didn’t. I really enjoyed being a part of it and what it stood for.  


After her time with the Lobby Board came to an end, Marcella found another opportunity that helped prepare her for a life in the nation’s capital: the Blackburn Institute. The Blackburn Institute is a leadership and civic engagement program for students of all levels at UA. It is dedicated to developing a network of leaders who understand the state of Alabama’s challenges and actively work to improve it. Marcella shared, “[The Blackburn Institute] aided my passion towards civic engagement. . . I’m invested in some of the issues Alabama has and I want to be part of that positive change.”    

Equipped with experience from her time in the Blackburn Institute, Marcella was feeling more prepared for the future she wanted. To equip herself even further, she reached out to the Career Center to build on her experiences, knowledge and skills. During her visits, Career Center staff members taught her how to search for appropriate internships, participate in practice interviews and expand her professional development.  

“I was there at least once a month,” she remembers.    

One significant way the Career Center helped Marcella was by taking her to D.C. to attend a professional development seminar where she learned all about cover letters, professional attire, how to network and more. They even discussed tips about the city itself, like how to navigate the transit system and the layout of different neighborhoods in relation to Capitol Hill.   

If it weren’t for the Career Center – and Appie Millsaps and Pam Derrick specifically – I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now. They were looking for ways to give different experiences to students. This experiential learning trip really let me see what D.C. is like, get used to the metro system and see what job and internship opportunities are there.


The knowledge Marcella gained while on the learning trip proved invaluable. Not only did she grow in several aspects of her professional development, but she also discovered two internship opportunities! She spent the summer of 2022 interning with Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who represents Alabama’s seventh congressional district, and she spent the spring of 2023 interning at the White House in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. These two experiences were a tremendous boon for Marcella, as they propelled her further towards her dream.   

That entire time, she never forgot the knowledge she gained from the Career Center.  

They really gave me all the resources and tools I needed to go into an internship or interview. Any opportunity out there that a student is interested in, they know how to give you those tools and prepare you so that you come and you give your best…. the Career Center really helped me feel more confident and know my worth.


Marcella demonstrated an incredible sense of ambition during her time at UA. In addition to the Blackburn Institute and SGA, Marcella also found community and development opportunities through the Hispanic-Latino Student Association, which she revived after years of inactivity on campus. This sense of purpose and personal responsibility garnered attention. Marcella was tapped into the XXXI women’s honor society, awarded the UA Outstanding Senior Award and the Alumni Association Outstanding Senior Award and she was a finalist for UA Student Employee of the Year!   

Once she discovered what she wanted to do, Marcella wasted no time looking for resources and opportunities on campus to help her accomplish her dream… which she did! After graduation in May 2023, Marcella secured a position in Washington, D.C. as a federal relations assistant with an insurance company. Her ambition, resourcefulness and dedication to accomplishing her goals helped propel her on the path to greatness with the knowledge and skills she gained from her time at UA. We can’t wait to see what positive change Marcella brings through her promising career.    

Experiences like Marcella’s depend on support from Career Center partners and donors. Without this support, she might never have been able to attend the influential trip to D.C. Make a gift to the Career Center Internship Support Fund today and help Student Life enhance professional development experiences for UA students!