Bernstein High School student Daisy Martinez had no idea she would have a reason to break out her gold sparkly high heels on a school night.
She was at the Kodak Theatre for a behind-the-scenes tour and look at Cirque du Soleil's "Iris" on Monday when she was surprised with a $5,000 scholarship.
Martinez, 17, said she was totally caught off guard.
“No way,” she recalled. “This can’t be happening. I teared up. I’m really honored. It’s a really big step for me. It’s going to help me a lot.”
Cirque du Soleil's sponsor Sun Life Financial, created The Rising Stars Scholarship to assist students and nonprofit organizations with low high school graduation rates in large urban school districts. Martinez was nominated by Los Angeles-based nonprofit Youth Mentoring Connection, which sets students up with mentors throughout the school year. Sun Life awarded YMC with a $50,000 grant toward its programs.
On Wednesday Martinez, wearing her sparkly heels, and representatives from YMC returned for a special reception, held for the scholarship winners and to see "Iris."
An only child, Martinez, who lives in Hollywood, said she is from humble beginnings but will not let that deter her from dreams of college and a new life.
“I want a better future for my parents and for myself,” she said. “They’re always there for me through everything.”
Martinez, a senior at Helen Bernstein High School, is known there as a leader. Her honor comes as no surprise to college counselor Rachel Livingston. The two share a close relationship because Martinez works with her as part of the school’s Peer College Counseling Program.
“She is one of the most deserving students,” Livingston said. “She is bright, determined, hard-working, and completely focused on her goals. She is a great, great kid.”
While Martinez is involved in leadership roles at school, including being part of the Senior Committee, she also participates in afterschool programs, tutoring kindergarteners and performing other community service work.
An eye toward the future
Martinez is determined to have a career involving entertainment and hopes to work in public relations. One of the things that excites her most is participating in a mentoring program at Paramount Pictures set up by the Youth Mentoring Connection.
“We nominated Daisy for this award because she has demonstrated tremendous courage and commitment both in her personal and academic life,” said Agueda Rivas, program coordinator at YMC. “She has overcome the struggles that her family has faced. Academically, she has always applied herself and been a very diligent and responsible student.”
Anita Ortiz, vice president of corporate responsibility at Paramount Pictures, is convinced Martinez can reach any goal she sets for herself.
“Daisy is incredibly deserving of the Rising Stars Scholarship,” Ortiz said. “Over the past two years, I’ve watched her grow from a shy, reticent girl into a self-assured, motivated young woman who is prepared to succeed in college and beyond.”
In her mind’s eye, Martinez can already picture herself as a student at her dream school, USC, but she said wherever she chooses to go, her parents will be proud of her.
“They say the school doesn’t matter,” Martinez said. “The student is what matters.”