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When Ceci Martinez falls she gets back up again stronger than ever

To Ceci Martinez, the past does not define her; it motivates her. Coming into highschool, Martinez carried with her a low self-esteemed caused by bullies and doubt. And at the end of her four years Martinez is leaving as an Early Childhood Development pathway completer, a three time state gold medalist for Skills USA, a four year Advanced Dance star, four year varsity golf player, four year basketball player, and an overall a compassionate, loyal, determined young woman. Though she is miles away from the girl with low self-esteem caused by bullies and struggles with doubt, Martinez remembers the grit needed to overcome those years.

“In middle school… I didn’t really care about school. Math was a definite struggle of mine and so not doing good in math also reflected on my other classes as well. I didn’t have confidence in my abilities,” Martinez said. “But, [my parents] have always taught me that failure is not the end. It’s the beginning and where you really build your character.”

Martinez described her  turning point was competing Skills USA her freshman year in “20 Second Elevator Story.”  What started as a chance to “get outside her comfort” zone lead to a Martinez changing her perspective on herself and her capabilities.

“SkillsUSA absolutely changed my life. Mrs. Matthysse asked me one day [to compete] and I thought ‘why me?’ I didn’t think of myself as a good academic student,” Martinez said. “So when I won gold at state, I just got a sense of confidence in myself. I thought , ‘Maybe this is something that I could start like working on and  get good at.’”

SkillsUSA absolutely changed my life. Mrs. Matthysse asked me one day [to compete] and I thought ‘why me?’ I didn’t think of myself as a good academic student. So when I won gold at state, I just got a sense of confidence in myself. I thought , ‘Maybe this is something that I could start like working on and  get good at.’

Ceci Martinez

She would compete in SkillsUSA for the next three years, winning Gold at regionals for “Prepared Speech” her sophomore year, Gold at for state “Prepared Speech” her junior year, and Gold at state for “Early Childhood Education” her senior year.

Martinez is committed to Baylor University majoring in Elementary Education, different from the career as a nurse or psychiatrist she planned on at the beginning of her freshman year. But Brenda Matthysse, the adviser for the ECE pathway and coordinator of the Bearkittens program, gave Martinez the unique opportunity of becoming a Bearkitten student teacher her freshman year

“It just seemed like a good fit to have her go with us as a freshman. She really found kind of a home and family here very quickly in her freshman year,” Matthysse said, having known the Martinez family for several years, but getting to know Ceci through her involvement. “She was able to be mentored by a lot of older seniors who took her under their wing and now she’s been doing that with younger students this year.”

Before she was accepted into the Bearkittens program, Martinez had a pre-existing love for children and a strong sense of empathy derived from the way she was raised, specifically growing up with a cousin with autism and a mom who taught high school with passion: PRHS Psychology teacher Jennifer Martinez.

“Regardless of any difficulties or disabilities that you have I’m not going to look at those. I’m going to look at you on the inside,” Martinez said. “I have a defensive side where I always defend my cousin when I see people disrespecting him because of his disabilities. I’ve always been that person. When I was little, I used to have him hold my hand out in public.”

Matthysse sees that effort to make connections and look inside in every interaction Martinez has with a bearkitten student.

“She’s very intentional about emotionally connecting to children. And that’s just been just a huge difference,” Matthysse said. “Ceci is so good at making those connections, and making a child feel welcome and valued. It’s just a real gift that she has.”

 “I want to be that person that instills that confidence in children at a young age,” Martinez said explaining why she want tot be an elementary school teacher. “And I just I find like young kids so interesting, because they have so many interesting things to say. The things I hear from the some of the kids, it’s like ‘Where did you come up with that?’”

Senior Jenna Tatman is a lifelong friend of Martinez and highlighted Martinez’s dedication to Bearkittens, SkillsUSA, and goals in general.

“[Martinez has] dedication, but not just the typical dedication. Anything she puts her mind to and she wants to be a part of she gets it done and is always with it… especially with Bearkittens,” Tatman said, as a fellow teacher.

Mother Jenny Martinez, has been there for every Advanced Dance show, halftime spectacle, golf-match, and basketball game. When talking about her daughter’s journey to self-confidence, tears of pride sprung to Martinez’s eyes.

“The biggest thing was to just do your best. But, as long as you are working hard on your path to be successful, then that’s all I can ask it for,” Martinez said. “I’m super proud. She far exceeded my and her own expectations of what we thought she could achieve. I feel lucky to have her.”

As Ceci Martinez graduates high school and begins the next of her life, she looks at who she was in middle school and smiles at this girl with warmth. Martinez accepts her past struggles and will use them as a learning opportunity to overcome any obstacle.

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