News & Features

Hazelwood Man Finds Success in OPTIONS Program, Wants to Give Back to His Home

posted 11/17/08

Independent News / Neighbors Section

Thursday, October 9, 2008

By Anne Shaw Heinrich

In the eyes of many, 25-year-old Fontbonne OPTIONS student Michael Martin is already successful.

A ward of the courts since early childhood, Martin has a story that's so inspiring he's been featured by PBS and FOX as a shining example of how foster children can rise above their circumstances to become productive adults.

"I've worked hard and I took advantage of every opportunity and program that was available to me," he says. "I leaned heavily on my social worker, who was like family. I just kept moving forward."

Martin graduated from high school, and even earned an associate's degree in accounting. He also started working full time as a temp with Aramark at the Boeing Corporate Convention Center, where he's quickly worked his way through the ranks to his current position as a conference supervisor. His next goal is to become a general manager with the company, a goal that will be within reach if he earns his bachelor's degree.

A resident of Hazelwood, Martin attends classes at the North County location in Florissant. He says OPTIONS' convenience makes the program especially appealing.

"The instructors can relate to what the students are trying to do," he says. "And I like working with my study team. We all understand that we have to fulfill our part of the bargain, which is nice."

Martin wants to earn a graduate degree next.

"I just keep looking beyond, to the next goal," he says, offering advice to those who are on the fence about going back to school:

"Just bite the bullet and go for it," he says. "Once you get started, you'll have more confidence."

Martin hopes to be able to give back in some way to the children's home and independent living program that helped him stand in his own. He hopes to serve as an inspiration to other foster children who think they have no chance to make it in the world.

"I run into so many people who have worse situations than I did," he says. "You just have to keep moving forward."

OPTIONS is designed specifically to accommodate the needs of busy, working adults with convenient and accelerated undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

With its main campus located in Clayton, the university has also established OPTIONS classroom sites in North County, South County, Chesterfield, Fenton, and downtown St. Louis.

For more information, call 314-863-2220 or visit

With permission, copyright (2008), The Independent News