The Coast News Group
Community Community Oceanside San Marcos

DACA student makes road-trip documentary

Melina Martinez

OCEANSIDE — MiraCosta College student Melina Martinez returns to school this fall following a three-week summer tour across California for a “Roadtrip Nation” documentary, featuring visits with a dozen notable community college graduates — from Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn to Telemundo co-founder Frank Cruz — who discussed their journey to a meaningful career.

Roadtrip Nation says the documentary will be available online this December. Roadtrip Nation is a nonprofit with a mission of impacting how students choose their path and illuminating what’s possible when they follow their passion. It has produced more than 30 documentaries since its first road trip In 2001, but this is the first Roadtrip Nation production done in partnership with the California Community Colleges system, which commissioned the effort.

Martinez, a 21-year-old DACA student, applied to take part in the project after seeing the trip promoted on Instagram. She and two others, one from Modesto Junior College and the other a kinesiology student from Orange Coast College, were chosen from among 200 or so applicants.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an American immigration policy that allows some individuals with unlawful presence in the United States after being brought to the country as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit.

The trip aboard the nonprofit’s signature green RV began June 22. The trio’s first stop was with novelist Reyna Grande (Across a Hundred Mountains, Dancing with Butterflies, and The Distance Between Us), a former undocumented student who enrolled at Pasadena City College and went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing, and film and video from UC Santa Cruz and her master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Antioch University. Other interviews included Adam Balogh, an instructor at Laney College’s Machine Tech Program; Richard Fletcher, a guide supervisor at Hearst Castle; and Carrie Kneitel, creative arts director at the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“As a DACA student, I don’t really get to travel much,” said Martinez, who came to the United States when she was five and has lived in Vista since. “Getting to see different parts of the state and getting to know people who are thriving in California sounded exciting.”

Martinez said the trip made her reflect on her future. “We talked to a teacher in Sacramento (Hassan McWhorter) who said younger kids are always asked what they want to be instead of being asked who they are,” said Martinez. Others along the way emphasized that students need to follow their passion. By the time she returned to her home in Vista, Martinez had decided to follow her love of graphic design.

“I had been thinking about business marketing, but that’s not really what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was going down that path because I was more focused on the financial aspects of the profession.”

She hopes to transfer to a California State University campus, perhaps Cal Poly Pomona, next year.