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Young Trailblazer Nominee

Jason & Antonio Martinez

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Nominated By Shirley Martinez

My Black Colorado Interview

Youth on Topic – How are you dealing with COVID-19 – Life in Perspective

Antonio and Jason A Martinez – 16 – Colorado Springs

We were born right here in Colorado Springs and we are twins.   We went to Webster Elementary school in Security and Fountain Middle school.  We took a short detour to stay with our mom in Texas for 5 months and came back to Colorado. We currently attend Fountain Fort Carson High School.  We live with our Grandma and Grandpa, and we come from a blended background.  We are Black and Hispanic.  Sometimes life has a way of providing a different journey and we understand that sometimes all the things that are supposed to be normal are not what life is about.  It is the tests that are placed upon us and we chose how we respond.  Our grandparents are our guardians, and our parents although are in different states with different spouses they are in our lives.  We have 3 siblings that live with our parents and we keep in contact daily.  It is important that we stay connected.  I suppose we could be bitter, but we know that they have chosen the path they think are best for us.  So, a little bit about us.

Antonio – I am funny, smart in life situations, a sports person love to play and watch.  I care for others and volunteer with my grandmother a lot.  I take things to heart and sometimes too serious as my grandma would say.  I kind of watch out for my twin because he tends to do things before thinking them through.  I love sports, especially basketball, baseball, and football.  I play outside as much as I can and like to play games on social media.

One of my major accomplishments is I received my academic letter in high school for academics.  This has made me realize that grades matter.  I do volunteer a lot with my grandmother have been since a young child.  Most recently, I helped wrap gifts for kids and was selected to be on the Fountain Valley Youth Council.  I also recently submitted my nomination to become the Vice President of the group.  I believe that this will help me move into getting ready for college, which I intend to do.  I want to gain knowledge and experience, with my interpersonal skills, self-confidence and develop my sense of community.  I want to learn about issues that can be a major concern as I grow into an adult, like City government, poverty, education disparity and suicide.

Jason – People seem to think I am a bit of a funny person because I joke around a lot. I have a good heart and mean well, but I know that I must learn how to be serious when the time is needed.  I play sports as well and watch it too.  I play Basketball, Baseball and played Football for a traveling team and in middle school.

I know that I give my grandma fits sometimes, because she feels like I do not know what I am doing or that I do not pay attention enough to the important things.  I do but being funny is my mechanism for dealing with the hard things.  Maybe I need to think more about that now that I am older and need to start thinking of my future.  I continue to play basketball and football with my brother outside in our yard or in the local park.  Trying to keep ourselves motivated.

This has been a difficult time not being able to be with our friends.  We do have times where we connect on social media, but it is not the same thing as being together and learning from each other.  This has been especially hard for me because I am very social.  I am caring and volunteer in my community at different cultural events or gift wrapping for the holidays for families, marching in the MLK Jr. march, but not this year and attending those events that brings a growth for me about life.  I like to help those in need.

I also was selected to be on the Fountain Valley Youth Council and submitted my resume to be the Event Coordinator.  I believe that being a part of this group can help me with interpersonal skills, meeting with my peers, being aware of my rights and self-confidence. We need to learn how our community functions.  How laws are passed.  Be a part of the solution to help with depression in our peers, drug use, and on-screen violence.  What has helped me in making this decision was that I have always volunteered in the community with my grandmother and this is something that I have responsibility for on my own.  I also want to attend college so know that I must start taking my classes seriously and my grades if I want to achieve my goals.

What has been your experience during the pandemic (i.e., your school year and beyond)?

Antonio – Crazy, so much has been cancelled and I am online which I do not like.  I am a person that needs to have validation for some of my work and being able to ask questions freely.  I am a sociable person, so seeing my friends and having that interaction has been exceedingly difficult not to do.   I do get outside as much as I can to keep my skills up for basketball.  I am not sure what that will look like for this season in 2021.  Every time we think we are going to play, everything is postponed.  After the first time, I was depressed, but now it is just our new normal.  My grandma says, go with the flow.  Just keep up with working out and you will be fine.  Trying to get better at getting in my assignments on time for class, it was hard since we were quarantined for 14 days prior to school letting out for winter break.  I missed a lot of hands-on since I could only complete everything on Zoom, and I was unable to test out until I returned.  I think there should be a contingency in place for testing and written assignments when you are having to quarantine.  I felt like it I was being punished although it was someone else that tested positive.  Just life, in general, to learn to live in a different manner.

I have been volunteering with my family since I was a small child.  I know that MLK Jr. Day is coming up and for the past four years I have been out front leading the march downtown Colorado Springs.  I also will miss in person Educating Children of Color and African American Youth Leadership Conference, which will be online.  I have to say, not sure I want to be on zoom again, during my weekend when I am on it all week long.  Hope they have something different then just someone speaking at us.  My other hope is that we can start living life somewhat normal before the end of the school year, I think us youth need it and I know I do. Again, I must be patient but still feel that learning is difficult right now.

Jason – It is terrible because we cannot play sports and I am very social person and I guess need validation.  I have a hard time working online, wherein it takes me more time to understand what I am supposed to do.  My grandma is always getting on my case to get my work in.  I think she has a missing assignment link on speed dial.  She knows before I know it was due.  My grandpa is the peacemaker because my grandma likes to ground me if I am behind and is strict.  He lets her know to give me some slack because it is different for me.

I do need the face to face I get more out of being able to ask questions.  I also think that being home together has brought families closer together, we have no choice but to engage in a different manner socially.  I have my twin but there are other students and our friends that are alone all day going to class.  So being able to talk to each other, be supportive and be that shoulder if need be is important.  I treasure the day where normal is just being able to go to school and see our friends and family.  I also believe that we cannot lose where we are by going back to being too busy.  We need to keep connected to family because at the end of the day school moves on and we do too.  Family will always be there.

Do you believe there is a duty of care for youth of today in their communities?

Antonio and Jason –

We do, with the necessary skills and opportunities, as youth we can reach our potential in supporting, contributing, and developing a security for the country.  If we are encouraged, we can participate and play significant roles in policies within our state or nationally.  We need to be able to learn about government, we have seen and heard so many things that do not conform to either what our parents have said or what we have learned in school.

Volunteering in our community we can become leaders in efforts surrounding poverty, climate change, reducing inequalities, we have a voice.   Things we can learn by working and volunteering in our communities are critical thinking, being innovative and really being listened too.  We are good with social media, so why are we not on communication platforms with local governments and organizations.  When we feel that we are heard we become leaders and are empowered to bring out the best of ourselves.  I understand more now than when I was volunteering with my grandma the importance of giving back.

We also help with our uncle who is special needs.  Since he has not been able to see his friends, he comes and talks to us a lot.  We know that he repeats things and that he is just trying to keep connected, so being that person that listens to him even if he has said the same thing 4 or 5 times, its patience, compassion and being there for him too.

Is there advice or a tip or habit that you think that young people can inculcate in daily life to be able to live and think better?

Antonio – Paying attention to our thoughts and emotions.  This can help us empathize with others. Being supportive to each other.  We all make mistakes and more so online now if you make one and everyone laughs that is the last thing you remember.  Watch what we say and how we interact with each other, you do not know what the other person is going through.  Being more open to mistakes are there for growth and to learn from them.  Being compassionate and understanding.

Jason – Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.  Offering a good thought of the day, growing empathy and compassion.  Making sure you are safe, or your friends feel safe.  Taking the time when your friends need someone to talk too.  Plan a routine where you talk together every week to catch up.  Keep your parents involved somewhat in your weekly schoolwork, so if there is a problem there are no surprises for all.  Acknowledge that this is a tough time and lean on each other if you need to.  This too shall pass but with an improved view of who we are and where we want to go.

What do you think is one piece of advice that you think adults needs to hear, to help them connect with the younger generation better?

Antonio – Listen to what their youth has to say.  Parents are just as stressed out about online school and the day-to-day stuff as we are and that shows in their manners to us youth in how they speak to us and what they believe or not.  Communicate, do not be so quick to find fault.

Jason – Understanding youth better.  Listening to their youth’s advice sometimes.  Let us make our mistakes, that is how we are going to learn.

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