Wes Moore grew up poor and fatherless, in a struggling neighborhood in Baltimore. He flirted with trouble on the streets, yet went on to become a Rhodes Scholar, White House aide and the author of “The Other Wes Moore,” a book that contrasts his life and that of a man who grew up in nearly identical circumstances but will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Antonique Martin is growing up poor and fatherless in north Minneapolis. Like Moore, despite the unfair number of challenges life has dealt her she’s making great choices.
A participant in AchieveMpls’ college-counseling program, Martin graciously agreed to let MinnPost republish her speech, which had virtually all of the 600 education advocates and private-sector boosters in attendance in tears. We won’t spoil it, but we think after reading it you’ll agree her future is easily as bright as Moore’s.
Good afternoon, my name is Antonique Martin. I am a senior at Patrick Henry High School, and I would like to thank all of you for coming today and AchieveMpls for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
People often think that all a teenager has to focus on is being a student and doing well in school. Yes, that sounds very simple and at times I wish it was. But there is this thing called reality, and we face it on a daily basis.
I grew up in North Minneapolis surrounded by the negative influences of the streets, but somehow I always had a love for education. I was always liked by my teachers, and in third grade I joined student council.
On the outside I was a typical third-grader, but I was going through a major change. My father had moved to Texas (which I found out later was to go to prison), and my mom was married to someone new. I had many questions wondering why he wasn’t coming back. As years passed I gave up hope that he would come home again.
Four kids later and six kids total my mom got a divorce and became a single parent. I am the oldest girl, so I had to step up and help raise my younger siblings. Doing so, I had to end many of the activities I enjoyed.
I became the second parent, making sure everything was in order as mom worked. This meant putting my homework to the side. In those days, I found my happiness and escape through school and student council.
When high school approached, everything seemed to get worse. I was regularly dealing with mother-and-daughter arguments, peer pressure, school and work. It made it impossible to maintain As.
After freshman year and the first quarter of sophomore year I was discouraged … and I gave up. I was no longer the honor-roll student, and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t seem to get there.
On the outside, it appeared to my teachers and friends that I was the same great student, but I felt like I was withholding a secret. I stopped caring about school and my focus was no longer on education. I figured I couldn’t get into college so why … even … try.
Many people told me I wasn’t going to make it, and I felt it. Brian Tracy says, “Whatever you believe with feeling becomes your reality,” and that was true for me.
Not too long after, my world hit a breaking point. I got a call saying my mom had attempted suicide. This moment put me into the darkest state of mind.
I remember leaving the hospital and going home. I looked at my younger siblings and knew at that moment I had to make a decision for them.
I had two choices — either school, or the streets — and I knew both very well because by sophomore year I had already lost three friends to street violence. I knew I wanted my brothers and sisters to do great in life. I thought about choosing the streets but I thought, how could I want better for them if they had no inspiration?
Education was my only option.
It wasn’t easy, but teachers like Ms. Angela Spearman at Nellie Stone Johnson and Ms. Eva Lockhart at Patrick Henry, my Citywide advisers Pam Olsen and Derek Emery, my amazing grandmother, and people like Mr. Quinton Bonds in Henry’s Career and College Center all let me know I could make a difference. I can go to college.
They all help give me strength to look forward to a better tomorrow.
I’m not perfect. No student is. Initially we all have great intentions.
For most of us organizations and people from Achieve Minneapolis are the only things that help and give us hope for a brighter future.
Now as a senior and president of Citywide Student Government I know I made the right choice. Many doors have opened for me — like being here with you great people.
“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom,” was said by George Washington Carver. In my case and many others, this is more than true. Choosing the other path would definitely not have me applying to college and for scholarships or have me on a path to success.
I plan on attending Grambling State University, majoring in political science and minoring in sociology to later become a lawyer in family court to help the lives of others.
I always go by this quote: “The only people you need in your life are the ones who prove they need you in theirs.” It is important that we choose wisely, not only as students, but as a people.
I encourage you all to take the time to visit Patrick Henry or any Minneapolis school and get to know the students. They are incredible, smart, talented and filled with potential — with stories just like mine which continue every day of their lives. I am sure you all will be amazed.
I am a proud Minneapolis student. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Thank you, AchieveMpls, and all of you for listening to one of thousands of student stories. I look forward in seeing you all in our halls. Thank you.