For one to be met with adversity only makes the accomplishment of one’s goals that much more rewarding. Economics major Joan Bolanos Martinez can back this statement up with his account of a path that started in a small town in Venezuela and has led him to the financial epicenter of the world.
For as long as he can remember, Bolanos Martinez had the urge to leave the small town of Guanare in search of new opportunities. However, for Joan’s father, the notion of family superseded academic opportunity. Initially, his father was hesitant to accept his pursuit of academics so far from home at the Central University of Venezuela.
“It did not matter what subject I studied as long as I was close to my brothers and my family,” Bolanos Martinez said.
However, at the age of 21, and after much disagreement with his parents, he left for Caracas to pursue his education, where he juggled both studying engineering and working to support himself in his new city.
Joan’s most enduring challenge was still awaiting him. In 2007, he was involved in a serious car accident, which left him with a broken leg. Surgery was performed, and unfortunately, led to a major infection that eventually required amputation.
Bolanos Martinez faced impending bankruptcy from his vast medical expenses, but with the assistance of a trusted financial advisor who went above and beyond to help, Bolanos Martinez and his family were saved from economic despair. He credits the work of this financial advisor as being the inspiration that pushed him toward the field of economics.
After his finances were in order, Bolanos Martinez spent two years recovering from his injuries. He attempted to return to studying engineering but found his performance was not where it once was. He knew that he needed a change of pace in order to reignite his academic excellence, and his passion for economics was growing. Upon realizing that English was a skill needed to be successful in the business world, Bolanos Martinez came to the United States and managed to save enough to cover his enrollment in the ESL program at Suffolk County Community College in Selden, New York.
Upon completing the program, he intended on returning home to his motherland. However, an increasingly non-democratic Venezuela compelled Bolanos Martinez’s parents to encourage him to remain in the United States. With an established foothold at Suffolk County Community College, he decided to pursue further education.
“When I decided to make the US my home, I was determined to succeed no matter what obstacles I was about to face,” recalled Bolanos Martinez.
Bolanos Martinez racked up an impressive resume that included leadership work in various organizations, membership in various honor societies, and a GPA of 3.9. Nevertheless, he wanted more.
“I learned about the amazing work that GS does to open opportunities for people like me, who are eager to succeed regardless of the adversities we have faced to truly achieve the American Dream,” Bolanos Martinez said.
Although Bolanos Martinez was excelling in the world of academics, the results of his earlier car accident prevented him from pursuing another passion rooted in his upbringing: soccer. However, in May 2016, the US National Amputee Soccer Team contacted him. He then began an intense series of training to get him in shape for the team and competed in a 2017 tournament in California.
Fast forward a year and Bolanos Martinez’s work ethic and ambitious nature have brought him further success. This past summer, his goals of breaking into the world of finance came to fruition as he made a big impression as an intern in wealth management at J.P. Morgan Chase. Even with starting two weeks behind his peers, Bolanos Martinez rose to the challenge of learning his role at an expedited rate. He credits his work ethic with being the reason that he was the only intern on his team who was invited to a client meeting by a senior banker. He was so successful that the company asked him to return this coming summer in a similar position but with expanded responsibilities.
“After my amputation, I learned that every day counts to achieve my dreams, so I maximize every opportunity to make things happen,” Bolanos Martinez said.
After graduation, he wishes to take both his economic experience in the workforce and academic knowledge of the subject back to his home country in order to help make Venezuela’s future a bit brighter. For this reason, he is now weighing out the idea of obtaining a Ph.D. or MBA in economics.
“All options are on the table,” Bolanos Martinez said.