By Erin Albanese
April Martinez is the kind of person who asks, “Do you need anything else?” and “What more can I do?”
She’s the student who is ever-present, often helping organize events and taking part in art shows, blood drives, pancake breakfasts, powder-puff games. Others say she’s a natural at uniting people.
“I’m everywhere,” the Student Council president said with a laugh. “I love helping people. We do events that make people happy and bring our school together and that’s wonderful to me.
“Where they need me is where I’ll be.”
April graduates on May 31 from Godwin Heights High School, and is headed to Grand Rapids Community College for her associate degree before transferring to Western Michigan University or Aquinas College to major in political science and minor in art.
April has always had big goals and a go-getter attitude, she said, but on many days during high school, there was a lot more on her mind than schoolwork.
During her freshman year, April and her three siblings, the youngest a baby, were put into foster care after being removed from a situation involving abuse. April and two siblings moved in with an aunt, and the baby was placed with a foster family.
“I remember this day so vividly,” she said, recounting arriving at KidsFirst Emergency Shelter, in Grand Rapids. “I couldn’t stop crying. I tried so hard to keep it together. I was worried about how my younger sister was doing.
“The hardest part was my little sister being gone. When they took her, it was the worst year ever.”
April and her sisters and brother remained in foster care for over a year. The usually smiling, happy April acted out at school by being mouthy and disrespectful. She became unmotivated and depressed, even suicidal at times. She would weep silently in the bathroom at school. “There’s a certain stall where I would cry,” she remembered.
She now lives with her grandmother, and with the help of school counselors, her friends and a youth minister at St. Francis Xavier church, she turned things around. “Prayer’s a powerful thing,” she said.
Putting Others Ahead of Herself
She’s embraced her Student Council work with steadfast commitment. “I’m a very outgoing person, so I like to think of myself as reaching out to people who others don’t always notice and making sure people feel part of school. We’re like a family here. I love it.”
Teachers say April is always thinking about others. “She’s that person who asks, ‘What else do you need me to do?’ ” said Student Council adviser Robin Carlyle. “She goes above and beyond and is kind and considerate. Life isn’t always good for her, but she doesn’t let it get her down.”
Art teacher Deanne Basse said she has “a ton of admiration” for April.
“One of her absolute strengths is to keep her composure and poise and always looking beyond herself. When she is tackling her own aspirations, she is also equally as concerned with everybody else. It makes her a very strong leader.”
April said she wanted to share her story to help other people who face similar challenges and loss. She wants to inspire them to be strong, to turn to others for help and not give up.
“What’s coming is so much better than you ever imagine, if you take the good path,” she said. “You have to go through the storm to see the rainbow.”
Going through the foster care process has inspired April to become more interested in politics, and in the need for social change and to address global issues like human trafficking. She hopes to become a lawyer, and then aim even higher. Yes, that high.
“I’ve always wanted to get into politics and be President of the United States,” she said confidently. “I feel like the world can be changed. I’m a believer that we can fix the world.
“I tend to see the best in the world and people, because I love people. I love the world.”
April said her experiences have shaped her life. “They’ve taught me to be more compassionate and understanding, to be there and help people and not judge them.”
Sound like qualities of a good president?
“Maybe you’ll be interviewing me when I’m in the Oval Office,” she said. “We’ll see what I’m destined to be.”
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