ARVADA - When Dominic Martinez's life was turned upside down, he never let that get in his way of success at school. He lost his mother. He lost his home. Yet, the Pomona High School senior always worked hard.
"Most of it is just for the sake of my mother cause I know I'd want to make her proud," Martinez said.
Martinez is just one of eight amazing stories being honored with a "My Student My Hero" award given out by the Jefferson Foundation, which is the non-profit, fundraising arm of Jefferson County Schools. The award is given to students who have beaten overwhelming odds in the personal lives to attain academic success.
"My freshman year, my mother passed away," Martinez said.
She died of breast cancer.
"Flipped my whole world upside down and just left instability in my life," he said.
He is an only child who never knew his father. He has no family living in the Denver Metro Area, but Martinez wanted to stay at Pomona High School. So, he lived with four different families over the past four years. He is grateful, but he never felt like he has had a home since his mom died.
"I think it would've been easy for him to give up," Gillian Lange-Kemper, Spanish teacher at Pomona High School, said.
Lange-Kemper is one of the teachers who nominated Martinez for the "My Student My Hero" award. She says despite his challenges, he never offered any excuses used by many other teenagers.
"Sometimes, it's those easy excuses of 'Whatever, I went to a concert last night and I'm so tired.' This kid, it was like 'I didn't have a place to be last night, but here's my homework.'" Lange-Kemper said.
Martinez worked hard to excel in mathematics and as a Varsity Athlete in football and track and field. He says he learned perseverance through his mother.
"She taught me that to be passionate about whatever you do, always work hard, give 100 percent," said Martinez. "So, I just want to keep what she instilled in me when I was younger."
Lange-Kemper says his story is truly inspirational.
"He's an exceptional, exceptional young man," Lange-Kemper said. "He has a big heart. He has drive. He has motivation. He's going to do big things."
Martinez will be awarded the "My Student My Hero" Award Saturday morning along with seven other students.
Arriane Parilla from Bear Creek High School is being honored for excelling in school while working three jobs to support her family in addition to being a volunteer.
Jesus De La Cruz is from Brady High School. His mother was deported and De La Cruz was left to take care of his entire family while finding a way to pay for the mortgage.
Quinn Silco is from Columbine High School. He has worked with Cerebral Palsy and vision issues to succeed in classes and in the school's choir program.
Dylan Dugan from Conifer High School is a mentor and tutor to other students while achieving high grades in his own classes.
Laura Tschudy is from D'Evelyn High School. She does not let her battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma get in the way of being near the top of her classes.
Anterra Kennedy from Lakewood High School also lost her mother to campus. She was homeless while her father struggled to make ends meet. Yet, she was able to perform well in school.
Kyle Bedford attends Warren Tech Central. He also has lived with friend's families without a home of his own, yet he has done well in First Responder/Fire Science and Emergency Management programs.
If you like to see more about these students click here : http://www.jeffersonfoundation.org/news_events/march/mystudentmyhero.html
Martinez plans on attending Colorado State University seeking a degree in both bioengineering and chemical engineering. He never wants to let his own tragedies ever get in the way of a bright future.
"I try to keep some of the stuff like in my short-term memory and try not to remember it," Martinez said. "But, it's always there and I always think about it."
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