Coral Reef High School has nominated senior Claudio Martinez for the Silver Knight in Social Science.
Martinez attends the International Baccalaureate program and he has been an athlete for Coral Reef. He is a wrestler, who had to forgo his senior season because of an Achilles heel injury. From his freshman year through his junior year, Martinez was a football team manager and coaching assistant.
“I was never really able to play sports,” he says. “Football has always remained a passion of mine. It was a way to contribute without actually being able to play the game.”
Martinez couldn’t play because he was born with cerebral palsy.
“I have some difficulty walking, mostly balance (problems),” he says. “My left side is weaker than my right. I do have some handwriting difficulties.”
Throughout his school career Martinez has had an aide, but does not rely on the aide any longer.
“As I got into high school, she is there as a precaution,” he says. “I have other accommodations, I’m allowed to type my essays. I’m pretty self functioning.”
He worked hard to build up his strength to be able to wrestle.
“When I was younger, I don’t think I would have been able to wrestle. I made it my mission that no matter what disability, no matter what challenges, I find ways around it,” he says. “Maybe I was never the best wrestler and maybe not the strongest, but I was able to go out and compete and that was really important to me. My school was very supportive.”
Martinez has not let anything get in the way of his goals. He earned his Eagle Scout badge during the last school year. Since he could not work on a traditional project, he developed a program called It All Starts With Attitude to help children with CP.
“It was kind of an out of the box idea,” he says. “I proved how I showed leadership. I think it became a great project and something I continue to do.”
He used to do it informally by visiting his former physical therapist to help him with the children who have what he does.
“I offer words of encouragement. I’m there for them. I got through it,’ he says.
He talks about how he navigated through childhood with his disability. He’s presented his program numerous times, including presentation at Miami Children’s Hospital and the fundraising walk, Voices for Cerebral Palsy.
“Sharing my story, hopefully makes the process easier,” he says. “Even when we do face certain challenges, there are ways to succeed and lead a normal life, and be the person you can be.”
Martinez says one of his most important achievements – aside from getting his Eagle Scout badge – came through scouting.
“I had to complete a five-mile hike through the mountains in Georgia,” he says. “The troop was patient with me. They said we could cut the hike short. I was adamant I wanted to finish. It took me over six hours. My dad was with me that day and it was his birthday. It was a huge accomplishment. It wasn’t always easy, but the troop helped me.”
Next year, Martinez will be heading off to college. He’s looking at several schools, including SMU, Miami University in Ohio and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He wants to double major in business and sport management, and then go on to law school.
“No matter where I go, I will continue to be an advocate for people with disabilities,” he says.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld