Yessica Martinez has received a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants, that will fund her pursuit of a Cornell MFA in creative writing. The 2018 fellows are the children of immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, green card holders or naturalized citizens.
Martinez was born in Medellin, Colombia, and migrated to Queens, New York, with her family when she was 10 to escape the violence of her country’s civil war and drug-related conflict. Growing up undocumented, Martinez learned English and adapted to life in the states but yearned to return to her homeland.
As a high school sophomore, she joined other undocumented students in their struggle to secure the passage of the DREAM Act, a grassroots effort she continued at Princeton University, where she led the creation of a scholarship program for undocumented youth, planned lobbying visits and coordinated efforts to stop the deportation of a Salvadorian migrant.
Martinez majored in comparative literature and creative writing to uncover marginalized peoples’ perspectives and push back against dominant narratives. Advised by United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, she traveled along the U.S.-Mexico border and developed a poetry collection on state violence and migration.
As an educator, community organizer and writer, Martinez hopes to empower marginalized communities by affirming their strength, resilience and creativity.