It’s not an uncommon story.
High school athlete gets recruited to play a sport in college. After a couple of years, there’s a coaching change. Nothing feels quite right anymore. Not classes, not the campus, not their beloved sport.
For Lydia Marentette, this story was all too real.
But after her transfer to the University of Toledo in 2019, Marentette wrote her own happy ending.
She graduated this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is currently in the public administration master’s program and working as a mayor’s assistant in the Department of Neighborhoods for the city of Toledo.
Marentette is helping administer a $12 million direct rental assistance program for low- to moderate-income residents in Toledo and Lucas County. Her professionalism and enthusiasm have impressed Tiffanie McNair, Toledo’s housing commissioner.
“We had a deadline to spend 65% of the funds, and Lydia made our application review process more efficient,” McNair said. “She volunteered to work overtime and go out to community events. She’s been a real leader.”
While in high school at Notre Dame Academy, Marentette was recruited by Rutgers to row for crew. But when she came home for the holidays midway through her junior year, she knew she didn’t want to go back to New Jersey.
“I was unhappy there, academically and with my sport,” she said. “I wasn’t happy with the new coach. It was a bigger university. I didn’t know my professors and didn’t feel they knew me.”
She decided to transfer to UToledo.
“I love Toledo,” Marentette said. “I love everything it’s becoming. I thought I had more opportunity here. I was interested in social factors that play into public health and working with low- to moderate-income people. Toledo was a good place for that.”
Marentette knew the clock was ticking to get admitted and registered for classes by the time school started again in January.
In stepped Robyn Marrufo, manager of transfer admission.
“Robyn was a lifesaver. I was frantic and in a bad space,” Marentette said. “Robyn helped me get things together. She went above and beyond.”
Marrufo sent Marentette to Sam Nelson, program advisor for the political science program. He helped her register for classes.
“I never had to register myself for classes as an athlete. I didn’t have a clue,” Marentette said. “I went to campus seven or eight times that week to talk to people. Everyone was so patient with me.”
Because she switched majors, pursuing a political science degree at UToledo with a public health minor, Marentette ended up going to school for an extra year.
She gained early admittance to the master’s program in public administration, earning 12 graduate credit hours while she was still an undergraduate.
“My classes at UToledo opened my mind to what political science is, what you can do at the local level and all the routes I could go in,” Marentette said. “With the smaller class sizes, the professors knew me and cared about me.”
One of Marentette’s favorite professors was Dr. Jami Taylor, professor of political science and public administration. Marentette said she took a class with Taylor nearly every semester.
“She pushes you to do your best and really learn,” Marentette said. “She’s all about asking questions.”
Taylor, in turn, appreciates Marentette’s willingness to expand her horizons.
“That’s important for students,” Taylor said. “Lydia was willing to try different things and explore different avenues. She could have just stayed at Rutgers. It speaks to who she is. It’s why she’s a success.”
The summer before she graduated, Marentette interned with Neighborworks Toledo Region in its emergency rental assistance program during COVID-19. After she graduated, she was hired full time by the city.
“I really enjoy working in local government. I feel like I have more of an impact,” Marentette said. “I can sit at my desk each day and know I’m impacting people’s lives, not just now but long term, preventing them from being homeless. I’m from Toledo. I love Toledo. I know it can improve, and I like being able to help my hometown.”