“You can’t change what life has done to you, but you have the power to create your own future…I am here as a voice from the future to tell you that it is possible”
In an emotional speech that resembled the reality of many of the students in the district, Stephanie Martins shared her grueling journey as a self-reliant teenager who was determined to succeed while having to support herself. She outlined how walking at her high school graduation alone and after losing her mother, working multiple jobs, and putting herself through college fueled her passion to take ownership of her future and give back.
She gave that speech last month to a room full of students who were all too familiar with either chronic disruption, housing insecurity, or working while attending high school.
Speaking before graduates of the Youth Harbors program, which provides homeless and unaccompanied high school students (who statistically are 87 percent more likely than their housed peers to drop out of high school) housing assistance, an adult support network, and individualized life skills development lessons, Martins harnessed their accomplishing high school, challenged them to go further, and empowered the students to break the cycle of homelessness and/or poverty.
Martins herself having rebounded to graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University Extension School and recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy at the John McCormack Center for Global Studies at UMass Boston. “It wasn’t an easy road, but I decided to succeed and I got to work” – said Martins in her speech as she urged the students in the audience to do the same.