My name is Jake Martinez and I just started as the new Education & Youth Programs Assistant here at GLSEN. It has been a really exciting and eventful week. I’ve already begun to learn so much about this incredible organization and have even started assisting in the preparation for the upcoming annual Day of Silence on April 11th. I’m eager to discover what plans this organization has for me and meet the many people who work to create change in our school communities.
To tell you a little bit about me: I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and spent most of my life there. During my early high school years, I was a very shy and quiet student. I rarely spoke out or tried to make friends. I came from a completely different neighborhood and didn’t know any of the kids at my school. For the first couple of years, this was hard. Not only was I new to this school, but I was also struggling with understanding my identity. I knew I was a different a young age, and came to realize that I was gay at the age of 14. I waited a while before telling my parents, both of whom were very supportive. But it was my own internal struggle and desire to be accepted by society and my peers that led to a challenging year of self-discovery. I grew tired of feeling confused and misguided and began to reach out to local organizations in my community to talk to older, more knowledgeable LGBT youth about the issues that I was facing. After beginning to attend this group and seeing the many problems in the community, I wanted to make a difference in any way that I could. I started participating in a GSA in my high school and, in my early college years, began to engage in grassroots organizing to fight for a marriage equality effort in Arizona.
After starting a career in social justice, I began working to protect civil liberties for all as the Special Projects Associate for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties where I educated and trained volunteers on social justice issues, supported the many teams and their work, and also learned more about education equity.
As of just a few days ago, I took part in a cross-country road trip from San Diego to New York to be a part of this team. It was an eye-opening experience and gave me the opportunity to see so many beautiful places in this country. And now I’m here and ready to make a difference in schools – to provide a safe space for all students and develop resources for educators. I look forward to being a part of the movement and making a difference. Even if I can create change for just one person, whether that be a student, an educator or someone who may feel like an outsider – I will take pride in the fact that the world is changing, one step at a time.