Who is Principal Martinez?

by  , Youth Reporter

Rito Martinez is principal of the Social Justice High School (Sojo).

Here we learn a little more about him.

Carmen Alvarez: How old are you?
Rito Martinez: 39
CA: How old were you when you graduated from high school?
RM: 18
CA: College?
: 22
CA: What high school did you graduate from?
RM: Bogan High School
CA: What college?
RM: Greenville College
CA: What were your goals as a high school student?
RM: Had none, not to get jumped, to work, and not to get any one pregnant. It was not till my senior year in high school that I thought about college then my goal was to better myself. I did not think it was fair or right that most people of color struggle so much including my family. In college, freshman year was just to survive. The first year was the most difficult year of my life. I felt out of place, I felt stupid, I did not have the skills to do well, I did not belong. Every moment was so much work. My only goal was to not quit or drop out. After that my goal was to graduate and be successful in college.
CA: How did you reach those goals?
RM: Hard work, determination, sacrifice, tears, help from others and help from God.

CA: What obstacles did you have to overcome to reach your goals?
RM: Tons of obstacles, mostly people assuming a lot of stuff because I was Latino, tons of obstacles at home. It was hard for my mom to be supportive. Tons of money obstacles, at times I did not have money to do laundry. The obstacle of having to work ten times harder on schoolwork because the public school did not prepare me.

CA: What are some important lessons you learned as a student?
RM: Perseverance – never give up – to help my family by accomplishing my goals and to help my community

CA: Do you have any helpful tips for the Little Village students?
RM: Yes, think about the big picture, don’t just think about today and today’s problems, issues or drama, think about ten years from now, where you want to be, how you want to help and change things for others, believe in yourself, remember SOJO who will always believe in you.

CA: What is the most difficult part of being a principal?
RM: All the reports, forms, and meetings that I have to attend.

CA: What is the most fulfilling part of it?
RM: Seeing a dream become true.

CA: What does social justice mean to you?
RM: Education with values, being empowered through education and using that power to change and better our community, society, and world for the better.

CA: What part did you take in building this school?
RM: This is my 8th year working on this school. I have played almost every part except being a hunger striker.

CA: Describe the perfect school.
RM: What Sojo is becoming.

CA: In your opinion what are some issues affecting our school?
RM: Drugs, family problems, gun/gang violence, poverty.

CA: What can the students do to help fix these problems?
RM: Never lose hope.

CA: Where do you see the school in 10 years?
RM: One of the best schools in the city that every one wants to attend.

CA: Where do you see yourself in a decade?
RM: Being the best father I can possibly be.

CA: For how long have you been married?
RM: Four years.
CA: How many children do you have?
RM: Three: Joaquin 3 and a half, Chava-21 months, Carlitos-6 months. I am so busy at home! Yikes!

CA: What is the hardest part of being a father?
RM: Letting my kids learn on their own and not sheltering or over protecting them.

CA: What is the most rewarding part of it?
RM: The love, their smiles, their eyes, their hope.

CA: What do you hope for your children?
RM: For them to be safe, happy, and become good people.

CA: What do you wish for the school?
RM: A place where kids can leave all of their problems at the door, feel loved, feel like people believe in them, a place that is fun, the place where we learn together – good and bad. A place where the seed of hope begins to grow in the hearts of every student.

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