Alum of the Month: Sara Martinez

Tell us about your Mikva Challenge experience. 

I always say that my involvement with Mikva was an accident. In 2008, my history teacher announced that he had 2 job applications, one for an ice cream shop and the other for Mikva. I wanted the ice cream application, but my classmate beat me to it. I still needed a job, so I picked up the Mikva application. The application was due that same day, and I needed to write a couple of essays and have a letter of recommendation. I scattered around the school to find a teacher who would do it. My JROTC instructor (whose son is an alumni) wrote it for me and faxed it the same day. I honestly did not know what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I needed a job.

What programs were you involved with at Mikva Challenge?

While I was in Mikva, I participated in the Youth Safety Council. The council focused on minimizing youth violence and also trying to build better relationships with security officers and students in schools. I learned a lot about the injustices that youth experience, and it motivated me to create positive change. I was given opportunities to speak about our research on CAN TV, Oprah Radio, and other news outlets. My public speaking and research skills definitely improved through these experiences, which eventually helped me in the long run.

I was also able to take part of the Summer Government Leadership Institute (SGLI), and intern at Senator Durbin’s office downtown before I went off to college. That internship was a great experience to have before going off to school. I was the only high school graduate surrounded by college interns.

What are you doing now?

My life has done a complete 360. Loving the Mikva experience as a student, led me to come back as a college graduate and becoming a Mikva Fellow/Program Coordinator leading Peace and Leadership Councils at Bowen and Clemente High School. I also lead the city wide After School Matters Youth Advisory Council.

How has your experience as a Mikva Challenge youth informed who you are today?

Mikva Challenge made me a civically engaged individual, not only in high school but also in college. It gave me the tools that I needed to combat and organize against systems of oppression at my school. It taught me how to get to the roots of the problems and solutions. The organizational skills that are taught through Mikva programs are skills that many college students do not have going into their first year of school. Even if I wasn’t always active with government, I made sure to be active in my campus. It gave me the passion to continue working with youth and to give them the same opportunities that were given to me.