Amonté L. Martin
Entering college was rough. As a first generation college student, and only the second person in my entire family to go to college, when things were tough, I had no one to turn to, and no one could relate to my college experiences. Sometimes it felt as if I were walking through a dark hallway trying to feel my way through, with no guidance. The only hope I found was in football. When that did not work out as I had planned, I redirected my focus to becoming a better student. After a few semesters, I started to get involved in more agriculturally-oriented clubs, and my passion for helping underserved populations led to me being selected and nominated to participate in many leadership summits. I began to gain confidence in my academic abilities, which influenced me to run for student leadership positions within my college. Without a doubt, I genuinely appreciate and value my education, because it has allowed me to grow as a result of exposure to information and experiences that have changed my life. I have matured as a student, I have matured as a leader, and I have acquired a great admiration for the process of conducting research, along my journey.
I had the privilege of learning firsthand in South Africa, how the power of agricultural education is more than just remembering and regurgitating information. It is a tool that individuals use to emancipate themselves from the threshold of ignorance, and it also helps communities emerge from the shadows of poverty. My trip abroad also demonstrated how the implementation and manifestation of policies can impact schools and communities.
Therefore, after carefully considering my aptitude, interests, the nature of my training and my ultimate professional ambitions, I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in food policy.
Twenty-months behind bars facing a life sentence, I found myself grappling with the derailment of my life’s trajectory. I never imagined myself being in that predicament, nor did I fully understand the lasting affects my senseless decisions would have on me, my family, and on those who cared for me. Frankly, I was embarrassed, I let down a lot of people who believed in me and who expected more out of me. In addition to being embarrassed, I was scared of what awaited me, I knew that the direction of my life’s path wasn’t in my hands anymore, it was solely dependent on the judgement of others. Fortunately, I was not sentenced to life behind bars, however, I was sentenced to living a life of service to fulfill my purpose. While incarcerated, awaiting trial, I promised myself that if I were ever to see the light of day again, I would fully invest all of my time and resources to ensuring that children from my neighborhood, and those like mine would not be involved with the criminal justice system. I am wholeheartedly devoted to at-risk youth and engaged in ensuring that they do not diminish themselves to being a number and property of the state, or even worse, a memory - a picture on the front of a t-shirt with their name engraved on a tombstone. My life experiences propelled me to want to start an initiative that would discourage individuals, mainly at-risk youth, from engaging in gun violence, and having to go to jail.