PULLMAN — When Edgar Martinez throws out the honorary first pitch at the Seattle Mariners’ “Salute to Latinos in Beisbol Day,” he’ll be sharing Safeco Field with students whom he is helping become teachers.

The former all-star Mariner and his wife, Holli Martinez, are teaming up with WSU, the University of Washington and Seattle University to put more teachers of color into the nation’s classrooms.

Through the Martinez Foundation, the couple will sponsor 15 masters in teaching fellowships starting next fall—five at each university. The foundation plans to have an ongoing relationship with the students and document the impact of the fellowship programs. It will collaborate with the universities to provide programs and networks that promote classroom diversity and student success.

“Teachers are so important to the success of our children, particularly children of color,” said Edgar Martinez.  “But our teachers also need support in order for them to succeed.  We know that if we can provide our Martinez Fellows with the tools necessary to keep them in the teaching profession and at the top of their game, it will have an immense impact on many lives.”

The couple created the foundation in early 2008 to strengthen communities by providing underserved populations with educational opportunities.  In support of its efforts, the Mariners will donate $7 for each ticket purchased through the Web site www.mariners.com/latinamerica for the June 6 “Salute to Latinos in Beisbol Day.” One fellowship recipient from each university will join Martinez on the field when he throws out the first pitch for the game against Minnesota Twins.

Judy Nichols Mitchell, dean of the WSU College of Education, said she looks forward to the game and to collaborating with the other universities to promote diversity in the teaching profession.

“The Martinez Foundation’s fellowships—a very generous $15,000 each—are just a part of this amazing effort,” Mitchell said.

Holli and Edgar Martinez say they can relate to the graduate students they are helping. She is a graduate student in the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.  He earned a business certification from the University of Washington a few years ago.

“Edgar and I were personally touched by our own experiences of going back to college because we realize not everyone has that choice,” said Holli Martinez, president of The Martinez Foundation.   “We believe education is the best way to alleviate poverty and the teachers we support through our scholarships and programs will have a great impact on thousands of students and their communities.”

The masters in teaching program is designed for people who have decided on a teaching career after earning an undergraduate degree in another discipline. The first Martinez Fellowship winners from WSU, who will be enrolled in the MIT program starting in summer 2009, are:

– Shannon Anthis, who received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Loyola Marymount University in 2007. She wants to teach high school English and hopes eventually to earn a doctorate or law degree. A native of Los Angeles, she attended schools in Orange County.

“My parents never had much money, but fought to put us in the best public schools. I was often the poorest of my peers, as well as one of the few Mexican-Americans. Among the wealthy Caucasians, I struggled with feelings of being an outsider … but soon realized that differences are the best part of our world,” she said.

– Elida Guevara, who will graduate from WSU in May with a degree in Spanish. Her contributions at WSU include serving as a founding member of both the multi-cultural Affiliated Student Organization and Ritmo Latino, an organization that helps students learn about Latin American culture through dance. A native of Othello, she is eager to be a secondary school teacher.

– Anna Ochoa Rivas, who will receive degrees in accounting and Spanish from WSU in May.  In addition to teaching, she hopes eventually to have her own business. “I come from a community where not one Hispanic has received a college degree,” said Rivas, a native of White Salmon, Wash. “I was determined to beat the odds.”

– Kevin Takisaki, a 2008 WSU graduate, majored in Spanish and plans to teach high-school Spanish and math.   He excels in math and physics, but decided that teaching would be more emotionally rewarding than his original career choice of engineering. Takisaki is proud of helping maintain a hip-hop culture in his home town of Spokane.

– Jenna Visoria, who graduated from WSU in 2008 with a degree in sociology. A Vancouver native, she is former vice president of academic development in Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. As a Filipino with a Caucasian boyfriend, she says she has learned that being in an interracial relationship has provided her with an opportunity to educate. “I want to inspire my students by passing along my enthusiasm for learning and by showing that I believe in all of them,”  she said.

For more information, visit http://themartinezfoundation.org or http://education.wsu.edu