SRA’s Executive Director Lynne Martin bids farewell

It’s Been A Wonderful Ride. Thank You Very Much. 

By Lynne Martin

After 14 years as Executive Director of Students Rising Above (SRA), it’s time to say good-bye.

I’m leaving to spend more time traveling and with my family, and I’m very pleased to be leaving the organization in such great shape. Our new Executive Director, Carolina Martín, is already doing a terrific job and will no doubt take SRA to the next level.  She will continue to have the support of my long-time business partner, Barb Hendricks, along with the rest of the SRA staff, mentors, donors, corporate and foundation partners.

I can’t possibly express my thanks to everyone who helped turn SRA into a national model for enabling low-income, first-generation students go to college, graduate, and then land a career-ladder job. Throughout, I’ve learned many lessons from all of you. Your daily examples of compassion and courage have made me a better person. I am forever grateful for your belief in our students and program.

We Are Family

As much as anything, SRA is a unique, caring family. It’s a group of people united in a single purpose to help our students graduate from college and ultimately break the cycle of poverty.

The beauty of being part of the SRA family is that it instills courage and hope.

Over the years, I have seen the strength of character which defines our students, many of whom face unimaginable hardships on a daily basis. I’ve seen this in students who didn’t know where they’d sleep at night or where their next meal would come from. Or in the students who raised their siblings when their parents failed to do so. Or in the students who buried family and friends killed in drive-by shootings and who fought through the bitterness and paralysis that comes from profound sorrow and despair.

When our students stare down darkness and take a leap of faith and believe that things will be better, it’s awe-inspiring. In those moments, I’m reminded that courage is often measured one-step at a time.

Making A Difference

In times of uncertainty, like today, SRA is also a place that brings people together and provides an opportunity to make a real difference through our mentor and student programs.

Many times, I’ve seen the lives of our staff, volunteers, and mentors transformed by dedicating themselves to our students. The takeaway is always the same: Giving without the expectation of receiving is the greatest gift of all. It is the essence of grace. Community connects us to something bigger than ourselves and is a powerful weapon against skepticism and division.

A Bright Future

Looking forward, I know SRA will remain a leader and show others the way.

The focus will continue to be what’s best for our students – our guiding light since SRA was founded.  Through our direct services program, we will continue to successfully navigate this cohort of students through the emotional, social, and academic challenges of going to college. Our wildly successful College2Careers Hub, which replicated our direct services program online, will play an increasingly important role. In just three years, the Hub has attracted more than 10,000 students. I expect it won’t be long before it’s 10 times that number.

The total focus on students has translated into the personal touch in everything we do. We never embraced a cookie-cutter approach with students, staff, mentors, or donors. We tailored our efforts to the needs of each student, which resulted in setting a national standard for college completion.

I am sure this will continue to be the case going forward. I also believe SRA will continue to be a work-in-progress. Our willingness to embrace change and innovate is our lasting strength. We evolved by embracing two our favorite words – pilot program.  SRA will always find a way to get to “yes.”

A Salute to Our Graduates

It has been a great personal joy to watch our graduates grow up. We first meet them when they are 17 years of age, and we watch them blossom into adulthood. They are the next generation of diligent employees, energized community leaders, and generous contributors of time and resources. The legacy of SRA will be written by their future actions, activities, and efforts…and by their children. Watch out world, our graduates are coming!

SRA will continue to be a trailblazer, and I fully expect SRA to have an impact in ways that we are just beginning to imagine today. This is just the first step.

Stay tuned.

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