The following is a speech from Julissa Martinez in April 2019.
I first came to New Legacy back in 2015 when it had recently opened, and let me just say that walking in through the doors of this school, I realized right away that I had been given a second chance to conquer my dreams and goals. When I first came to New Legacy I was 16 years old and I was 5 months pregnant. I was doubted a lot and told that I wouldn’t graduate high school–that I would be stuck working a minimum wage job. Yet I always knew that no matter how hard life got, I would cross any finish line I set out to cross and NEVER let anyone else determine my future. Coming to this school I had the support and help from outstanding teachers, friendly staff, and my daughter’s teachers as well. I remember attending school almost every single day up until I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl Izzabella. Then after my six week maternity leave it was a great feeling knowing that we both could return to school. I was amazed with my daughter’s teachers–how they were so loving and caring for all the babies and children in the ELC. Izzabella attended the early learning center until she was two, she learned so much from sign language, to early verbal skills, to her ABC’s and how to count…all thanks to the dedication of her teachers.
I was given many opportunities while at New Legacy. With the help of my teachers I was taught how to apply for college and financial aid. With their help I received acceptance letters to both Johnson and Wales University and Metropolitan State University of Denver. I was also a member of the first intern cohort, and of the first winter graduate class. New Legacy opened many doors for me. As I started my 6 week internship at Inner City Health Center, I gained valuable experiences learning to work and engage in a community helping others of different cultural backgrounds. I was very grateful for that experience that helped me determine who I wanted to be as I moved forward with my education.
On May 31, 2017 I was proud to finally say I did it. I conquered my first goal and I graduated from New Legacy, and I was then off to my next stop, college. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to begin my new journey and to keep thriving not only for myself but for my daughter as well. Today I am a sophomore at Metro State and I am a declared social work major. I plan to finish my last two years at Metro and then return again to hopefully receive my masters in social work. And every day I look back and I am very thankful for having had this opportunity that started here at New Legacy. Yes, because of my dedication, but also in large part because of this school we sit in now, I am where I am today. With the many opportunities and experiences that New Legacy had to offer I knew that I would no longer be a statistic, I knew that I would no longer just be the next generation in my family that lives paycheck to paycheck, and I definitely knew that I wouldn’t be stuck working a minimum wage job. Yes, I am a Latina teen mom. But I am proud to say that I broke a cycle. A cycle that my child will only hear of, but she won’t ever have to live. I also knew that if I conquered my dreams my daughter Izzabella could never give me an excuse as to why she wouldn’t be able to conquer hers. Thank you for your time and commitment to this truly special and priceless school.