2011 Broad Shoulders Award
goes to Sabrina Martinez
Sabrina Martinez, a compassionate woman who uses her professional experience and passion for education to influence the lives of low-income families, is the recipient of Houston Woman Magazine’s 2011 Broad Shoulders Award.
She exemplifies sincere friendship and provides comfort and support in good times and bad. She was nominated for the award by AVANCE Houston, an organization that works with poor and marginalized communities to promote better parenting, school readiness, literacy, health and personal development, helping its clients move from poverty and illiteracy to a future of opportunity and economic prosperity. Martinez has been an AVANCE board member since 2009.
AVANCE says, “Sabrina takes pride in serving and empowering others to pursue their dreams.”
What drew Martinez to the organization was AVANCE’s commitment to Head Start, an early childhood education program that is near to her heart; she was a Head Start child and the niece of a Head Start teacher.
“Education is so important, and getting the right start, children learning how to read early and not starting off behind, is so important,” she said. “Head Start really makes sure children, regardless of their socioeconomic level, get that advantage.”
AVANCE is dedicated to more than the Head Start program. Martinez describes the organization as following a parent-child model. Classes that teach parents to be present in their children’s lives and particularly active in their child’s school life are offered. Parents who don’t have their own education can pursue their GED with AVANCE’s help.
There’s even a college scholarship program for those who receive their GEDs. AVANCE also offers computer literacy and ESL courses, a fatherhood program and other family support programs.
On the board, Martinez uses her professional experience as a human resources specialist to chair AVANCE’s Human Resources Committee. In this role, she assisted with the development of a diversity policy, succession policy, social media policy and employee wellness program. She has also been asked to chair the Head Start Committee.
Though she spends time in meetings, finding ways to raise funds for the organization and reading over the fine print of contracts, Martinez also takes a hands-on approach to her role as a board member. Her employer, ConocoPhillips, supports employee volunteer efforts through the Employee Volunteer Grant Program where employees can apply for grants for charitable organizations in which they volunteer their time.
Last year, AVANCE decided to incorporate a natural playground as part of an environmental awareness lesson plan for children and parents. Martinez and a group of her friends, with the help of a volunteer grant from ConocoPhillips, spent a Saturday creating this playground, building a beaver hut, vine teepees, planting a butterfly garden and trees. She readily admits to being willing to help wherever she is needed, believing that as a board member, she is called to look out for the whole organization.
“She is a professional and good-hearted human being, ready to tackle any challenge in order to fulfill AVANCE’s mission,” AVANCE said. “As a volunteer, Sabrina is equally comfortable meeting with a philanthropist in a French castle or low-income pregnant mothers enrolled in parenting programs. In both cases the parties are concerned about education, and she promotes the value of education.”
Martinez learned the value of education at an early age. The same aunt who was her Head Start teacher was also the only one of her mother’s siblings who attended college. “She would always talk about how you have to value your education because it just wasn’t available for everyone,” she said.
She was also influenced by her high school guidance counselor, who walked very closely with her through the college admission process, even paying for her application to Swarthmore. Grateful for that encouragement and assistance, Martinez now advises parents on teaching their children the importance of education.
Martinez believes in empowering others, children and adults, by giving them the tools they need to have the best chance at a future that is healthy and secure.
“I hear people say, ‘This person should do this or that,’ but if he doesn’t know any better, he can’t do any better. Let’s give people a chance, and after that, if they don’t improve themselves, then yes, it’s their fault. Until then, you can’t blame the children for being poor or not knowing how to do things any better than they’ve always done them,” she said.
2011 HER Award Sponsors
Fashion Design Department of Houston Community College
Houston Community College
Marnoble Computer Sales & Service
Shea Writing & Training Solutions
The Vicki Milazzo Institute
Unity Church of North Houston
Wright Pawn & Jewelry Co.
Thanks also to these Friends of the 2011 Nominate HER Awards Program for their support and generous contributions.
Flowers by Nino
Minuteman Press Post Oak
The Perfect Touch Linens