The Face of Associated Ministries

by Martha Salas

My Name is Martha.  I am young Chicana woman–my family arrived in the United States of America from Mexico as illegal immigrants when I was four years old. We lived in Oakland, California until I was sixteen. MSMy Family moved to Washington State my junior year of high school in pursuit of new employment opportunities and to get away from the violence within the city. All my life I watched my parents work hard to provide a better life for my little sister, Adriana, and myself.   I knew from an early age if I were to succeed it would take hard work and determination. I was right.

I am the first in my family to graduate from high school. I am a pioneer for my sister and generations to follow. When you are the first in your family to succeed at something new it can be hard. I had to overcome stereotypes and belief systems within my family of what the life of a young Chicana woman should resemble.

After graduation, my aspiration was to enroll in college and study in the field of social services. However, as both a non-citizen and non-Washington resident, I was denied financial aid, certain grants and scholarships to pursue higher education. I simply did not meet the “criteria.” My dream of attending college appeared elusive in spite of my academic record and thirst for knowledge. The financial community believed my only alternative to college entry was to pay twice the cost of tuition for citizens and Washington residents. That option was not within my family’s reach.

What was my “plan B”? I had to obtain employment.  And who was going to hire a seventeen-year-old with no experience?

After hearing “NO’’ numerous times, I decide to take a different path: becoming a volunteer. I remember thinking to myself this could be a great way to gain experience and move forward with my goals. While researching different volunteer options, I come across Associated Ministries. After reviewing the mission statement and programs Associated Ministries had to offer I knew this was no coincidence. The social service component fit my personal aspirations perfectly. I contacted Wendy Morris; the A.M volunteer coordinator. I was offered the opportunity to interview to volunteer with the Foreclosure Team in Lakewood. They agreed to train me in all aspects of the Washington State foreclosure process, the input of client data into the system, the review of client applications, how to conduct “meet and confer” processes, billing and other administrative tasks.

I learned of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It offers qualifying immigrants access to legal documents that assist in gaining access to a social security card and other documents needed to apply for financial aid and other assistance programs. It was through this program I obtained the documents needed to obtain financial aid. I am now a student at Tacoma Community College pursing my dream of continuing education.

After a few months I was hired by Associated Ministries. I am so grateful for the opportunity Associated Ministries has offered me. Without their willingness to train and hire a former volunteer I don’t know if I would be as far along in my dream. (I forgot to mention I purchased my first car!) I’m so grateful to this organization, not only what it has done for me, but what it provides for the community.

Thanks AM!

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