“Everyday People, Make the World Go Round” Spotlight:
Name: Myra Martinez
Company: R STARS Project
Major City Where You Work: Miami
City Where You Live: North Bay Village
Please, share your personal and cultural background with our readers.
Both of my parents are Cuban. I was conceived and born in New Jersey. I have lived in Miami since I was 1 year old. I am truly blessed to get to experience so much Cuban culture in Miami that connects me to my roots.
Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday personal life.
My typical day starts with gratitude and meditation. I like to stay active and try to Workout 3-4 times a week. I also like to block uninterrupted time to read and unplug. When it comes to going out, I am more of a person who enjoys small groups, game nights, and exploring my town. Football and basketball are my favorite sports to watch… shout out to the Miami Heat and the Miami Dolphins! I do my best to savor the little things that we can very often take for granted. Time spent with family and friends is important to me. I like to celebrate life and not just on special occasions.
Tell us why you do, what you do, for a living.
I am the proud founder of R STARS Project. R STARS honors deserving high school students and teaches them the gift of giving AND receiving. Throughout the school year, the students take part in a variety of community events that show them firsthand how giving back changes lives. We refer to these students as “STARS” (Students That Are Raising Standards). This is because they continue to exhibit resilience in the face of adversity and create a better society overall. One of my favorite ways to give back is to honor the elderly. I love to see the magic that takes place when R STARS and seniors come together to make unforgettable memories with one another a/k/a “Senior Moments.”
How did you end up in your line of work? Was it accidental or were you strategic about it?
There was no accident but I can’t say it was strategic either. I have always loved helping others. I initially wanted to be a teacher, so I guess it’s quite clear I have always wanted to be around kids, especially those that are overlooked and/or underestimated. Quite often I hear the word “underprivileged” and I prefer to not use that label or term. I don’t feel it empowers or inspires but insults and limits one’s ability. I prefer to say that they are overlooked and underestimated. We must be fully aware of the words and labels we use as they negatively impact our youth and brand them subconsciously without realizing it. I also love that I get to be the bridge to bring two generations together. We get to honor those who have paved the path and those who will continue to light the way to the future. If you see something, do something…so my goal is to make people aware of how we impact the youth and amplify their voice.
Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday professional life.
My typical day is focused on “planting the seeds I wish to see bloom.” It ranges from planning events, fundraisers, and the back end work like social media, emails, follow up, planning, collaborations, and workshops. I engage in a lot of networking and reaching out to people and organizations we would like to work with going forward. I touch base with students in the program and have them give ideas and feedback in the process to include them in the process. It is really interesting to take in their feedback. It makes me aware of how we can best serve them and give them the tools and resources they need most.
Mission: Motivate, inspire, and celebrate deserving youth to shine in their community.
Tell us about the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.
I have always been intrigued and inspired by youth. I regularly volunteer my time to engage, learn and interact with them. I have witnessed how some have to grow up and figure it out early in life, due to circumstances that are beyond their control. Society sees how they “figure it out” and as a result, they get forgotten, because it is assumed they have it all together.
I made the choice to create something that would continue to encourage them to continue to do good, and lead by example, and know that they are loved and seen. They see how impactful volunteering truly is on the regular…when they see the faces of those they help in the community, like senior citizens.
Share how you balance the work-life challenges…what have been the rewards.
I make the choice to focus on one thing at a time. If I am working, I am fully present to work. If I am with friends or family, I am fully immersed in spending quality time with them. I don’t think you can balance and give equal amounts of time and energy to both or multiple things at the same time. There are days or moments when one will take up more time than the other and I am totally OK with that. One must make the decision and plan accordingly to honor the time and the things that need attention. As my friend Luly B. says, “Balance is BS!” 😉
What advice would you have for other Latinos in the business sector trying to make it day after day?
One step at a time, one moment at a time, one day at a time. Take steps forward to honor the things that you wish to manifest in your life, regardless of the obstacles you encounter. As Latinos, it is in our roots to live life to the fullest and always bounce back better than before. Most importantly, ask for help! Teamwork makes the dream work.” I learned the hard way that I cannot do all things because many things will be left half done. Get a team, ask for support, and you will be pleasantly surprised at those happy to help you achieve your dreams.
Do you think you have ever truly “made it” in life?
My definition of “made it” is when you wake up and feel a sense of being fulfilled. It’s not making a certain amount of money or having a big house or fancy cars. It is simply living the life of your dreams on your terms. When you listen to what your heart desires and allow yourself to feel more and think less you, will be well on your way to making it.
Did your ethnicity create any obstacles for you? Any advantages? How so?
I think in certain situations it can create obstacles for those who may have made assumptions about Latinos or have had a bad experience. It has been assumed before that I don’t speak English…or I was spoken to in a manner assuming that I was not capable of doing certain things.
Sometimes you experience this within your own culture and are treated as if you are less than human. Thankfully, I know that those behaviors are a reflection of the giver, and I choose not to partake or entertain that. It is in those times that we are resilient and make the choice to be bigger or better than those who have theoretically defined us. I have also had the advantage to be Latino and savor the juicy culture with all who share our Latino pride.
One huge advantage has been that I have seen first hand how resilience plays a key role in my life. Cubans have a way of knowing that things can be great one day and upside down the next. We also know with full confidence that bad times don’t last forever, and find a way to make the most of it. I love how we can find a way to express ourselves through music, dance, food, art, fashion, and things that are appreciated and embraced by all cultures.
El sabor de los Latinos is a glue that draws people in and creates the spice of life that is bold, loud, and beautiful.
What inspires you in your work life? What turns you off?
I am inspired by the drive I see in the eyes of the youth we serve. I am also inspired by the life stories of the elderly and how their history created and influenced what our lives are today. I love that I get to witness and indulge in humanity and learn so much from them. It turns me off when what I do is taken as a hobby or “something cute,” but in reality, it is life’s purpose. It may not always be easy but it’s always worth it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
There’s not much advice I would give to my younger self, except enjoy the journey. Many times we try to rush to the finish line but forget to relish in all the lessons and blessings along the way.
If you could have dinner with any Latinx person—living or dead–who would it be? Why?
I would want to have dinner with both sets of my grandparents. I want to know more about my roots, their lives, their journey. I just read the book Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton and it is by far my favorite book. One major take away was when someone in our family dies, so does a piece of history. So I would love to just sit and record, have them tell me as many stories as possible so that I can pass those stories down.
What is your favorite quote/saying? Give us your own personal quote to commemorate at LBT.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill
“When it doubt dance it out!” -Myra Martinez