Alumni Spotlight

Jessica Martinez

Jessica has spent the last several years redefining herself on the outside as well as the inside.  As another student described her transformation, “It’s like the real Jessica is coming out to play.”

The Evolution of Jessica

Jessica is an intriguing study in juxtaposition.  Though in and out of foster care since age 9, she has a strong sense of family.  At age 14 she was arrested and served time for running away from foster placements.  Despite repeated exposure to a range of toxic environments and situations, she has endured and blossomed.  With a petite frame and a naturally cheerful voice, she is building a new life, one decision and one day at a time.

It was the self-destructive and intensely difficult years between ages 14 and 17 that eventually led her to today.  Where is that?  While working, Jessica studies diesel mechanics and business at L.A. Trade Technical College.  Eventual certification in a lucrative career lies at the heart of a larger life goal to be self-sufficient while creating a loving home for her future children.

This dream may seem simple, but it’s monumental when contrasted with the reality that led to it.  Oddly enough, juvenile hall was a stabilizing environment for Jessica. As she closed in on age 15, she realized how exhausted she was and even quietly accepted that she might serve time until she was 18 for the “crime” of not having a stable home.  She admits that love was offered to her, but she was not in a psychological place to trust or accept it.  What she did accept was order, structure and the bleak setting of Central’s foster care unit.  It was here that she took her first IOW creative writing class.  Her teachers, Jesse and Dov, encouraged her to reach herself through writing.  After being released months later, she wrote to Dov and maintained a supportive relationship.  Though the experience was pivotal, it was not her turning point.

Over the next couple of years, Jessica found herself hospitalized three times due to alcohol poisoning.  The final time was the wake-up call she chose to answer.  Her first concern was for her younger sister, but she eventually wanted a better life for herself.  Things moved rapidly after that.  Jessica signed on for an IOW mentor, completed high school ahead of schedule, stopped hanging with unproductive people, worked on her family relations and landed a job.  She then realigned her studies with her true career ambitions.  Jessica makes it to the IOW office when she can, often volunteering her time and writing as much as possible.  Hers is not so much a re-entry story, as that of an initial entry into a better life than she experienced growing up.  Through it all is an upbeat demeanor masking a steely strength she has always had, even when she didn’t realize it.

–Leslie Diane Poston

“The Colors of Me”

Behind all of this make-up

I’m just a girl wishing for the world

A shade of blue for all of the things I wish I could undo

A shade of red for every little thing I used to dread

I can’t take back the person I once was

But all I can now do is hang the old me back on the shelf

I try to continue working on the person I want to be

And spend less focusing on who I am truly meant to be

I tried to hide behind dull colors

When all I wanted to do was be bold and bright

I can no longer suppress who I am

Because I no longer carry myself on that shelf

But I walk around with all of my true colors

Jessica Martinez