From taking part in leadership opportunities on campus to graduating early and deciding to join the Marines, Jasmine Martinez has always been independent and self-motivated. However, it was Alta Vista High School’s tight-knit culture that she said made her feel supported and gave her the opportunity to succeed.
“It feels more like a family-like environment,” Martinez said. “Everyone generally cares for how you’re doing besides schoolwork.”
When Martinez started ninth grade at Los Altos High School, she was going through a rough patch in her life. Her father had drowned in a river the summer before on a family trip to Sacramento.
“He was always the one pushing me and my sisters to do good,” Martinez said. “When he was gone, there wasn’t really that motivation anymore.”
As she grappled with his death, Martinez started skipping classes at Los Altos High. At first, it seemed no one noticed, she said, and it soon became a habit.
“There wasn’t really anyone stopping me from doing it,” she said. “When I went to Alta Vista, everyone was so much more involved with everything I was doing – attendance and grades and classes and schoolwork.”
At Alta Vista, Martinez said she learned to focus on herself and improve her own well-being. Her older sister was also already at Alta Vista, smoothing the transition.
According to Alba Garza, the school’s community resources coordinator, when Martinez first came to campus, she was quiet and often kept to herself, but soon settled into her new school.
“Then as the years went on, she just blossomed into this leader on campus,” Garza said.
As opportunities arose for Martinez to get involved in the classroom and community, she stepped up. Martinez joined Fresh Lifelines for Youth, known as FLY, which is offered as an elective on campus.
The program teaches teens about laws that affect young people and at the end, the students take part in a mock trial event. Martinez was one of the defense attorneys and Garza said she took her role seriously, preparing copious notes ahead of time. Afterward, she decided to join a voluntary leadership program through FLY, where she learned leadership skills and completed various community service projects.
Martinez was also one of two Alta Vista students selected to attend the Watermark Conference for Women through a scholarship the school received. There, she got to hear successful women speak, including Serena Williams.
“It was just super inspiring, because it’s a whole bunch of women who succeeded on their own,” Martinez said. “Just hearing all their stories was super inspiring.”
At school, Martinez joined the leadership class on campus and would have been on the graduation committee, if not for the pandemic. She was also selected as the class speaker, and recorded a video of her graduation speech.
Throughout her time at Alta Vista, Garza said she was impressed by Martinez’s ambition and determination, saying that she was always a self-starter.
“Right away, her presence on campus is very noticeable,” Garza said. “She has a charisma about her, and a leadership (quality) to her, that made a statement the moment that you meet her. All the kids respected her and you could kind of tell that they look up to her.”
Outside of school, Martinez worked as a host at Celia’s Mexican Restaurant. That was coincidentally the same job Garza herself had held when she was a student at Alta Vista in the early 2000s.
Martinez and a friend also started their own small business, planning and hosting Spanish music events. That work has been put on hold by the pandemic, but Martinez said she plans to start up again once it’s safe.
Despite all that she’s involved with, Martinez still managed to get through her school work and finish her classes a few months early. When school closed in mid-March, Martinez said she was still determined to finish and focused on her hardest class first, math. From there, the others fell into place.
After high school, Martinez plans to join the Marines. She was originally scheduled to head out to boot camp this month, but the pandemic has delayed that until November. For her, joining the Marines was a way to have a secure job that would also cover the costs of going to college. Martinez is also excited by the chance to travel and explore new locations.
“I think I’m more excited than scared for it,” she said. “I like knowing new places and new people.”
Garza said she has no doubt that Martinez will be successful after graduation. What’s always stood out about Martinez is the high standards she holds herself to both in classes and in her broader life.
“When she says that she’s going to do something, she will do it to her fullest potential,” Garza said. “She’ll give it her all.”