College wasn't part of the plan for Martin Landon. He says,
"If you would have asked me in 1995, when I graduated high school, there is no way that I would have thought that I could succeed in college or junior college or anything past high school."
And yet, after seeing the example set by his son, Martin is now graduating from the University of Arizona with a bachelor's degree in law
and numerous academic distinctions on his record.
After high school, Martin dove into the workforce and did not give a second thought to higher education. It was not until later in life when he began driving his eldest son to classes at Pima Community College, that he thought, "I'm already here, might as well take a class or two and see what happens."
A few classes at a time, Martin completed his associate degree through the paralegal program at Pima Community College. He did so well that he received a full scholarship to continue his education.
"Since I was granted that scholarship, I thought, 'Wow, I have an opportunity to do this. I knew I wanted to stay in a legal program, and since the University of Arizona offers the BA in Law, unlike any other school in the country, it was a really good fit."
Martin's eldest son, who first inspired him to go back to school, has also now graduated from the University of Arizona. He has two more children enrolled as Wildcats, both completing their junior years. He even shared two general education classes with his youngest daughter.
"It was her choice, not mine. She actually did better than me in one of the classes, and she will never let me live that down."
Finding His Voice and Using it for Others
Martin gravitated to the legal field because he wants to help amplify the voices of people with disabilities.
"I am a disabled person, and I always felt that sometimes their voices are unheard." He says that if there are more people with disabilities working in the legal profession, "then maybe we can help each other out."
In the combined undergraduate and graduate Innovating Legal Services course, Martin worked with Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse and helped prepare a report for the Arizona Supreme Court that became the Licensed Legal Advocate
pilot -- a program that trains non-lawyers to offer limited legal advice to domestic violence survivors. It's the first such model in the country. Through the Innovation for Justice program he also helped evaluate and redesign an app for the State of Utah for settling small claims disputes.
Martin says hands-on classes like Innovating Legal Services and internships that provided him with real-world experience introduced him to career paths he had not previously considered.
As a non-traditional student who transferred to the University of Arizona from community college, Martin often did not know what to expect during his journey as an undergraduate student. Now, he is graduating with the newfound confidence that comes from success, noting,
"I got the confidence to know that I could do it. I got the feedback from my professors and advisors and support from my peers. After 20 years away from school, knowing that I can come back and have the support to succeed as well as I have, earn scholarships and some recognition is really awesome."
Martin is graduating with a job offer in hand, but after speaking to his advisors, professors and family, he is now considering continuing his legal education.
"Thinking about law school and pursuing a JD is actually a possibility that I would not have thought about a few years ago."
Martin says that whatever path he takes, it will always center on helping the community. And after managing the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, he takes pride that he and his fellow graduates can handle any curveballs thrown their way.
"We had an entire year of completely disrupted schedules, ideas, internships. So congratulations [to the Class of 2021]. You survived it, you did it, you persevered, you pressed through. Tremendous work all around."