Daniel Martinez

Posted on April 7, 2014

Editor's Commentary

Get your mind right; get your grind right

Change your destiny by changing the way you think


Growing up, I didn’t have the drive to be the high school valedictorian. I didn’t have the grades as a junior, and on the outside I pretended I didn’t care I wouldn’t speak in front of thousands of people during my graduation ceremony. Maybe I sound like someone you know.

Most people were surprised I was even graduating, including myself. But sitting 50 feet away from the podium, I wasn’t concerned about that. I was burning up inside. My thoughts came pouring in at a thousand words a minute, and I couldn’t even hear what the valedictorian was saying.

I wanted to be the one to stand up there and pump up my graduating class, but I wasn’t. I was so jealous of the kid who made that final speech. Even though he deserved to be up there because he fought to make that speech, in that moment, I didn’t see it that way.

I’m 21 now, and a lot has changed since that gloomy graduation day at East in 2011. But if I ever had the chance to be on stage in front of thousands of people, this is what I’d say:

A lot of people who knew me back in junior high and high school might still think I’m the same “punk.” Labeled as a “troubled youth” and expelled in my freshman year at Carey Junior High, I shared the common thread of dislike for authority that weaves throughout our society. I didn’t know how to control my anger, so I turned to alcohol and marijuana at age 15, and I was put on probation a few times and assigned a mentor.

The only place I was allowed to continue my education was at a “school” run by the Attention Homes, an organization where foster kids and troubled youth are sent to rehabilitate as a last resort before being sent to a juvenile detention facility.

Finally, after a year and a half of challenging crossword puzzles (In biology, I passed with a 98 percent! Yes, I know, I’m a genius), I made it out of that “school” and started attending East High School, and I wanted to change; I was tired of being a loser. I wanted my peers to like me, and I didn’t want people to be afraid of me anymore, but I still had a short temper, and my shyness made being likable even more difficult.

Deep down I just wanted to be a “good kid.” I knew I was different from other people my age, but I didn’t know how to change. It was at that point in my life, after my junior year, I learned Laramie County Community College was taking applicants for the Partnership Diploma Program, which is designed to help students in high school graduate faster and on their own time. I decided to apply and was accepted shortly after. Looking back, I had no idea LCCC would have such a tremendous impact on my life.
I truly believe LCCC is a school of destiny.

Only a few moments in life can either make you or break you. Only a few opportunities, if taken, can change the course of your life. But it’s up to you to seize those opportunities.

Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, from the movie “Beetlejuice,” once said: “If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.”

Have you ever decided to change for the better and noticed your “friends” fall away like flies? That’s what happened to me, but I recognized taking the risk to change and become someone “worth his salt” was worth losing every friend because I knew deep down I was doing the right thing.

I wanted to change; I had a burning desire to be a better person. The catalyst for that change came from an elective course called “Business Leadership,” started by Jan Felton, who retired as principal of Central High school in 2004 and now is the director of PDP.

The books that are a part of the business leadership course are what changed my life. Who knew reading a book could have such a powerful impact? These books were chosen as the heart of the course because of their practical nature, covering the career and technical areas of our lives:

These manuals for success provided me with a hope that the media and most people I knew seemed to have forgotten.

They taught me that in order to change my life the first step was taking complete responsibility for where I was mentally, physically, spiritually and even financially. By being 100 percent accountable for your own life, you put yourself in the driver’s seat, learning to accept the fact that everything you do or don’t do, every thought, every word you speak, whether positive or negative, is a collection of who you are today and who you’ll become tomorrow.

Without attending LCCC and reading self-help books I may have been in prison by this time. Those books taught me to look for the best in people, and no matter what I’m enduring or what I want to achieve, someone has already struggled through it. By making the effort to read their words and understand their thoughts, you put yourself in the arena to change, just like I did.

I kept those books (and I’m not giving them back) because they changed my life; I cherish them, and I realize now why they’re in the “self-help” section of our libraries: You truly help yourself by flipping through those pages and then by applying that wisdom to your own life.

It’s been said the most positive influences we have are the people we meet and the books we read. One special person, whose sudden passing on March 8, has changed my life forever, was Tyler Malmberg. He taught me the value of true friendship by being true to himself and to everyone he met; he was somebody special.

Really, everyone wants to be “somebody special.” So let’s become dreamers, again. Let’s become eternal optimists, always excited, and always expecting great things. Let’s have the courage to take action, so we can look back at our lives one day and say: “I did it. I’m something special. I didn’t give up.”

In closing, don’t fear going after the gold medal because it doesn’t go to the prettiest girl or the strongest man; it goes to the person who wants it the most and is willing to fight for it. Winners count what it’ll cost to win and then resolve to pay that price. Give God the credit He deserves, and “Remember, before you can be great, you’ve got to be good. Before you can be good, you’ve got to be bad. But before you can even be bad, you’ve got to try; just keep calling a play.” –A.L. Williams