CHA celebrates 9th annual “Take Flight College Send-Off”

Trunk party salutes 175 youth going to college, representing 50 schools including: New York University, U. of Denver

As rocky as her road has been at times, Jaylin Martinez knows it’s nothing compared to her grandmother’s journey.

“She worked in carpentry and worked with machinery, cutting and polishing wood to make furniture,” Martinez said of her grandmother, a native of Colombia who came to the United States in search of a better life. “She was the only woman in the factory because it was such heavy work. There were piles of wood they’d have to pull from one place to another. It was hard, back-breaking work.”

That drive and determination – and desire to honor her grandmother’s sacrifices – is what Martinez will take with her to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in a few weeks when she embarks on her college career. She is one of 175 college-bound students taking part in the 9th annual “Take Flight College Send-Off” at 12:15 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, on the 9th floor Winter Garden of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State Street. There will be 50 schools represented as CHA students prepare to leave home and go to college, including Bowling Green, Illinois State, Indiana State, New York University, Northern Illinois and University of Denver.

The giant trunk party is made possible thanks to generous support from Comcast and Bed Bath & Beyond. It will be hosted by Springboard to Success, the nonprofit partner of CHA. Students will receive linens, towels and toiletries.

Meanwhile, Martinez, who graduated from ASPIRA Business and Finance High School and will major in Linguistics, is the first person in her family to earn a scholarship to a four-year university. And she does not take that for granted.

“This could have easily been another person who was willing to work as hard as I have throughout my life,” she said. “I must still work hard for what I want because there is always someone else that wants my spot.”

Early on, Martinez and her family moved from place-to-place. There were three of them living in a cousin’s bedroom when they moved into a CHA scattered-site unit in West Town. She was eight years old, and thought she had moved into a castle.

“I remember walking in with my mom, saying, ‘This is so big. Are we going to live here?’” she said. “I was able to play with my own toys in my own room. I was so excited that it was our home.”

It’s the home that she still lives in. Until she leaves later this month for Urbana-Champaign.

Eventually, she hopes to travel the world and teach English, while learning and understanding other languages. Eventually, she’d like to study theological ministry.

“There is a history to these languages and I respect that,” she said. “I would like to do work that would allow me to learn more about language and cultures while making a difference.”

She has fought her own battles along the way, dealing with the pressures of her own academic expectations. And helping out her mother, who recently developed a condition that required Jaylin’s consistent attention.

It is her mother whom she has credited with instilling in her a drive for excellence.

“She had me when she was 17,” Martinez said. “But she still went to college while having three children. From kindergarten, she was always pushing me to get straight A’s.”

But it all started with her grandmother.

“She taught me so much about sacrifice,” Martinez said. “She told me that you have to do things you don’t like doing – so you can do things you want to do later in life. She said things won’t come easy, it may take years to reap what you’ve sown. She said to remind yourself why you’re doing this: ‘Why am I working so hard in school? Why am I giving up sleep and crying tears to do this one thing?’ For me, it’s for my family, giving back to my mother and grandmother to help the family lift themselves. To know a better life.”




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