HOLLAND, Mich. — Cynthia Martinez had one dream when she was growing up. She wanted to be the first in her family to graduate from college.
“I come from a migrant, farm-working background and my parents didn’t have the resources, the finances, or the money to help send me to college,” Martinez said during an interview with FOX 17 on Wednesday. “It was a dream that I had and it was really hard to accomplish.”
However she did it, graduating first from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo with a degree in aviation administration. But years later, she found her passion to be in filmmaking and storytelling. So, she got her master’s from Columbia University in New York City.
Afterwards she worked at Univision in Miami. Now that’s she’s returned home to Holland, she working on achieving another dream: producing a documentary.
The film is called First Voice Generation.
“It’s about students of color here in the Holland community who have the dream of being the first in their family to go to college, and the challenges surrounding being able to afford college and having the resources to do so when your parents do not have a college education,” Martinez said. “And how this pandemic has exacerbated the education gap here on the lakeshore and beyond.”
Martinez began filming the students in summer 2020. Now, she’s in post production but hasn’t finished the project yet.
However, recently she was awarded $8,000 to finish the project.
Women of Color Give said she deserved it.
“Cynthia’s film is really inspired by her own story of being a first generation college student, coming from an immigrant family ,” said Kim Koeman of Women of Color Give. “And what that means is she’s taking the medium of film and amplifying young people of today’s stories and it’s just, it’s powerful stuff.”
Kim Koeman, who’s the chair of nominations for Women of Color Give, said they’re all about women of color empowering women of color by creating, reimagining and investing in a variety of causes.
The philanthropic group was created in 2018 by three women of color who lived locally in Ottawa and Muskegon counties. They’ve since grown, and this year raised $41,500 to distribute to grassroots organizations that align with their mission.
“Often women of color and girls of color are seen as the recipients of goodwill,” Koeman said. “So, what we’re trying to do is really flip that.”
In October and November, a dozen organizations applied for their grants. In December, five were selected to receive funds, first place getting $20,000 to last place receiving $500.
“So, our five nominated organizations that received the most nominations this year was Diatribe, Hope College TRIO Upward Bound, First Voice Generation Film, Escape Ministries and Latin Americans United for Progress,” Koeman said. “So, those are the things people felt passionately about this year and nominated for our funding.”
Koeman added that it’s not just about giving money but partnering with the organizations and individuals to help them expand their work.
Martinez said she’s grateful for their work. She said it’ll help her get to the finish line. Her next step is to get the film some local and national exposure.
“I’d love to bring this film to the White House. That’s a huge dream that I have but I know that the education gap is a national crisis and people need to understand that and see that and this film reveals that,” Martinez said. “The goal is to get it into film festivals by next fall and we’ll take it from there. So, we’re dreaming big.”