Today’s teenagers don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Many are thought to be obsessed with cell phones, Snap Chat and lazy. Stephanie Martinez shatters that stereotype. Stephanie is Puerto Rican and Guatemalan. At the young age of 17, she has more confidence and poise than many adults. She is hardworking, kind, intelligent and self-assured. As I spoke with Stephanie, I understood why Marie Mitchell, a teacher of Stephanie, spoke so highly of her. We spoke about her Latina pride and some of the issues that Latina youth face in our society.
Stephanie is involved in many extracurriculars such as student council, she serves as secretary. She also does a lot of community service for ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) She participated in color guard and drill. She has also visited the veteran’s hospital and sang to them; she confesses not having a good voice. Also, she volunteered for the breast cancer walk and serves food to the homeless at her church. She even organized a woman’s rugby team at John Marshall, her high school.
Stephanie and her family are proud Latinos and practice cultural traditions. “When we are born we have to be baptized and we have to do our first communion and confirmation at church. The girls always have a sweet 15, a quince. In Puerto Rico, during December or in the summer we have a huge parade with pallera dresses, it’s awesome.” The favorite part of her culture is visiting family and saying “bendicion” and giving them a kiss. “In my family, we celebrate the 3 kings. We put a shoe outside and my grandmother celebrates it with us so she puts money in there or candy.”
As a Latina, Stephanie feels at times she is not accepted by others due to her ethnicity. “My father lives in Parma and I have a sister who is blind and has autism. So, when we’re in the stores they look at my whole family, the white people, look at us like we don’t belong here. I don’t agree with them because this is America, this is freedom.”
She also believes that she has faced racism in other ways. “My stepmother and I go shopping at the mall. The worker keeps following us and following us. We didn’t say anything, we just left the store. We weren’t going to cause an argument over something really dumb.”
Stephanie has many immigrant friends and she shared her views on immigration and President Trump. Her friends “love it here, they get better opportunities here and their families do too. One of my friend’s father just got deported and he has three young boys. It’s unfair because if you think about it, Donald Trump’s wife is an immigrant, also his previous wife.”
Stephanie has a bright future ahead of her. She is an honor roll student at John Marshall High School in Cleveland. She has many goals that she hopes to achieve in the next five years. “I want to go into the military, the army or the navy. If I don’t get in then I want to be a surgeon. I also want to be married.”
Stephanie is pursuing her dreams and encourages other Latinos and non-Latinos to achieve success “No one can stop you, only yourself. If you want to go forward in life then you have to keep trying!”
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