Sauk Valley Community College

an institution of higher education that provides quality learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of its students and community

Alumni Profile - Santiago Martinez

Santiago Martinez

Alumni Profile - Santiago Martinez

Sauk Valley Community College Alumnus and Skyhawk cross-country runner Santiago "Jimmy" Martinez has run a successful race since he first came to Sauk in 1994. Now a marketing and advertising professional, Martinez credits Sauk for helping him to get his bearings and decide what he wanted to do.

"I wanted to go to Sauk was because I got a running scholarship for cross-country and I was going to be able to get my general education, live at home and save a lot of money that way," said Martinez, a Rock Falls native who today is a marketing representative for Asics Footwear.

Undecided on a major, Martinez made the most of what Sauk had to offer. He took a variety of general education classes, took advantage of Sauk's Learning Assistance Center, worked as a lab technician in the computer lab, and ran cross-country. A sales class and a marketing class at Sauk helped him determine his major and career.

"The sales class I remember very well. We did a presentation in front of a video camera. That helped me look at myself to see what I did and what I could change to be better."

Martinez graduated with an Associate in Arts in 1996 and transferred to Southern Illinois University well prepared with his general education requirements completed. That helped him decide to major in was advertising and marketing.

After graduating from SIU in 1998, Martinez worked for WSDR in sales to get experience. Interested in getting experience in a larger city, he took a job in event marketing for Kraft Foods in San Antonio. There, he traveled around the country with Kraft handling outdoor grassroots promotions. When a massive layoff left him unemployed, Martinez never lost stride and moved to Chicago where he took a position as a marketing coordinator for a foundation that, interestingly, raised money by having people run marathons.

"We would basically put people in marathons," explained Martinez. "We'd pay for their airfare and travel expenses as long as they'd raise a certain amount of money over what they expensed out for themselves. I was a coordinator and traveled all around the world to different marathons with those people."

That job that made him decide to get back into running and sports. Martinez kept up his professional pace and stepped into a position with Reebok International. He began by traveling the country displaying marketing and footwear displays at running events, then was promoted to marketing representative. A year later, he was promoted again to handling running sales for eight states. From there he decided to switch to Asics for a better opportunity. He is now in charge of all Asics sales in Eastern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

What Martinez remembers most about Sauk was how he was able to get his education, work, and enjoy his love of cross-country at the same time.

"It just so happened that it (a cross-country program) came out the first year I was there. Just having those three aspects really made me want to go to Sauk," he said.

Another thing he remembers is the availability of the faculty.

"The classes were smaller and I knew the teachers would be able to pay more attention to you than at a big university, he said. "I really struggled in some classes and it was only with the help of the teachers that I was able to do well. Sometimes it was a wakeup call with the university being so big. Some of my classes had 200 people in them."

Martinez always knew he would go to college and is the first one in his family to earn a four-year degree. (A sister earned a two-year secretarial degree). He credits his father for giving him the drive.

"He worked at Northwestern Steel and Wire for 35 years and everyday he would tell me make sure I go to school so I wouldn't have to do what he's doing.

Has Martinez encouraged others to attend Sauk?

"Oh, definitely," says Martinez. Some people they say, ‘Oh it's a community college and why would you do that?' I tell them why I did it and why they should do it. It's nothing to be ashamed of to go to a community college. Sauk is a place that I would recommend to everyone to consider and pursue if they are in question about their college goals. It is a good stepping stone to start."