Fred Piegonski, Executive Assistant to the President  
               Los Angeles City College, 855 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029 
                           (323) 953-4000  ext. 2243                            

                      For Immediate Release:  December 8, 2006

LACC Grad Margaret Martin Returns to LACC to Thank Faculty for Their Inspiring Support
She Went on to Start Nationally-Recognized Harmony Project for Inner-City Youth

Photo: Margaret Martin with Bennie Padilla

Photo: Margaret Martin with Bennie Padilla

Former LACC Student Margaret Martin meets up with Bennie Padilla, retired LACC counselor, on LACC’s campus.  
(Photos by William "Chuck" Ake)

After LACC She Gets Advanced Degrees at UCLA School of Public Health

Former LA City College student Margaret Martin went on to do big things.  She recently came back to the college to thank the faculty and staff who inspired her and gave her the courage to pursue her higher education studies.  One of those individuals was Bennie Padilla, who is now retired, but was a counselor at the college when she attended LACC in the 1980s.

Ms. Martin hadn’t seen Mr. Padilla for over 20 years, but when she saw him again, she thanked him for helping her enroll at the college and get the classes she needed when she first enrolled as a student.  “You really saved me a lot of stress,” she said. ”And you showed me a great deal of respect.  The only thing you asked of me in return was to do something valuable with my education -- something that would make a difference in the lives of others and in the world.”

And that she has done.  Always a long-time advocate for support services for youth, she founded the Harmony Project in 2001, a non-profit organization which provides inner-city school children with free classical music training along with free musical instruments.   Initially her program served 32 children and today it serves over 300 elementary and high school age children, with 19 teachers providing individualized lessons and orchestra training.  Ms. Martin has gone on to serve on the organization’s board and the program today is overseen by Abel Delgado, recently profiled in People Magazine.  

After Ms. Martin graduated from LACC, she went on to Antioch University where she received her bachelor’s degree and was valedictorian of her class.  She advanced to get her master’s and doctorate in public health from the UCLA School of Public Health 

Ms. Martin credits LACC for giving her the foundation needed to pursue advanced health degrees.   When she first enrolled at the Hollywood-based college, she was 33 and a mother of three.    She recalled that she chose to return to school because she wanted to get the respect that only an education could confer.  “I’d been away from school for 17 years,” she said, “and the math alone was intimidating.”  At LACC she found inspiration from Mr. Padilla and such instructors and mentors as English professors Lee Hancock and Jay Kelly.  

In a recent letter to Ms. Hancock, she wrote:  “Lee, you stood outside in a parking lot at LACC and you told me I needed to get a ‘room of my own -- with a door that locked’ where I could write.  I remember the tears running down my cheeks when you said that to me.  They are running down my cheeks even now, as I remember the moment.  You taught a great class in 'American Literature'.  I remember I was so hungry for the experience.”

She also told Mr. Kelly that his class had been a delight and that he became a real friend.  “You were also a great inspiration to my son, who attended LACC at the same time,” she said. 

While at LACC Ms. Martin was inducted into the Alpha Mu Gamma National Foreign Language Honor Society and received a $1,200 (first prize) Snyder Scholarship. She graduated with a degree in general science and communications.

After she received her advanced degrees, she held a number of positions with local child advocacy agencies, including the Esperanza Community Development Corporation, where she works as a trainer for lay health workers in the area of pregnancy and infant care.

She looks back fondly on her days at LACC and the educational opportunities it afforded her.   She also takes pride in her community involvement, especially her work with the Harmony Project.   “It is so exciting to make a difference in the lives of our youth,” she said. “And I’m so proud of the work Harmony Project is doing.”



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