If I Can Make a Difference

Hermenia Martinez

While a student at Dunbar Junior High, Hermenia Martinez was pregnant with her first child at the age of 14. Determined to finish school, Hermenia's parent's helped raise her son, Martin. Hermenia spoke about being a young mother:

"It became harder to go to school and take care of Martin. No one would hire me because of my age. I dropped out of school and went on to earn my GED. I had 2 other boys which made it more difficult."

Forced to seek government assistance, Hermenia spoke about her experience:

"I had to get on food stamps and welfare...Back then it was called AFDC. Every time I went for an interview I had to provide my life story. They would ask, 'Why are you needing this?' Hermenia stated, "They always looked down on me at the food stamp office. I told myself, when my youngest starts kindergarten, I am going to start work so I won't ever have to ask for help. I will do whatever I can to help my family. I worked 3 jobs. I started off as a part time employee for 11 ½ years at the City of Lubbock. I started working for Larry Isaac as an Assistant Instructor with pre-school kids. He asked if I was interested in filling in on the weekends. I continued taking GED course at Tech and then landed my first job as the supervisor. I remember my kids telling me 'why don't you get a real job? All you do is sit around and play cards and games with kids and senior citizens.'

Hermenia on programs and events provided at Copper Rawlings:

"I love my job because we provide recreation for people of all ages. We provide summer camps, after school programs, and special events such as the Haunted House. Our 1st year, we built stuff out of cardboard boxes not knowing it was going to be competitive to Nightmare on Elm Street. Our families enjoy some form of recreation. Why charge $20 when we can serve two purposes? We ask the community to bring two canned goods and we donate them to the food bank. We also have garage Sale booths to help the community make space in their homes. The money made is theirs to keep."

Hermenia on working in her community:

"I love that I am able to work with people that came from the same backgrounds as me. I always wanted to work with the less fortunate. I always said when I get up there I will never forgot where I've come from. I'm not where I'd like to be, but I will never be disrespectful or look down on poor people. They are more important than the man in the moon."

Hermenia on overcoming obstacles:

"Raising a family by yourself, male or female is hard. It's a hard job, if you're determined you can overcome barriers."

Hermenia on raising three boys:

"The boys could have very easily landed in jail or prison. They thought I was the meanest mom. I used to tell them, I may be the meanest mom today, but tomorrow you are going to appreciate mom."

Hermenia recalls a party in the backyard:

"One time there was a party in my backyard and they were smoking marijuana. I told them, what the hell do you guys think you are doing in my house?! Everyone started to scatter. Martin, told them, 'She's a nobody don't listen to her.' "I came back to the front and called the police. Once the police arrived, Hermenia stated, "I don't smoke pot and I don't approve of it. Would you please let them know who I am? She added, "I knew I was going to have to start young if I wanted them to live right. I told them, my job may not pay much but it's a job, so don't call mama when you get in trouble. I be damned if I spend my hard earned money to pay rich people (doctors, lawyers, judges) for your mess up. As she paused, Hermenia stated, "I just didn't want my boys walking the streets."

Hermenia on the role her parents played in raising her boys:

"I am grateful to God for my God fearing parents...My father is retired preacher...I don't know what I would've done without my mother and father."

Hermenia on the reward of giving back to her community:

"I still have kids Martin's age who come into the center and say, 'You still work here. I'm so glad you're still here.' I picked up the phone the other day and the young man said 'Ms. Minnie. It's me....I just want to say thank you , thank you, thank you. I want you to know if it weren't for you taking me off the streets, and giving us advice, I don't know where I'd be. I owe it all to you.' "That makes me feel so good. Even if it's one person I made a difference. I know I did my job, and I will continue to do that every day."

September marked 27 years that Hermenia has worked for the City of Lubbock at Copper Rawlings Community Center. East Promise Neighborhood would like to thank Hermenia for her tireless efforts of contributing to our community.

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The VOICE Project is a community outreach program of the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood that strives to capture and share authentic and inspiring stories of faith, hope and service.

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About ELPN

The East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood is an US Department of Education funded initiative committed to working with the residents of East Lubbock, Texas to support and advocate for our children – ensuring that both children and parents have access to the resources they need to grow, learn and succeed.

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