Staff Reflections: Javier Martinez, on Common Ground

by Tiffany Torres, Common Ground’s FoodCorps Service Member

I am saddened by the untimely loss of an outstanding student and community member here at Common Ground High School. At the same time, I am uplifted by the great efforts that Common Ground has made to come together, support one another, and honor the life of Javier Martinez.

As I write this, students are in the process of exiting Common Ground after attending a solemn school-wide assembly. They slowly walk past the window of my office, down the snowy driveway and head towards the bus stop together in groups. I notice some students laughing and smiling; they smile because they remember Javier with a constant smile, they laugh because they remember Javier’s constant laughter flooding the hallways of their school. Others are crying or silently stopping to hug one another. Nobody is alone.

I did not know Javier Martinez well, but in the last hour I have witnessed this community paint one of the most beautiful portraits I have ever seen, simply by sharing their stories, memories, and words of commemoration with one another. The voices that echoed throughout the school’s small cafeteria belonged to many generations. I heard a student stand behind the podium and address herself proudly as a community organizer. “Let me, help you, help us. Use your voices to stand up against violence,” she said. I heard a pastor gently whisper the words “God bless.” I heard the mayor of our city speak to students not as a politician, but as an empathetic mother who has also experienced the loss of a young life due to senseless, uncivilized violence. I heard a School Superintendent quote Nelson Mandela, closing with an important reminder that it was the youth who were the proud leaders of the civil rights movement. I heard a Freshman student venerate her senior classmates whom she usually “looks up to,” inviting them to “look down” to the Freshmen class for comfort through this time of grieving.

By the end of the hour, a common theme seemed to permeate the room: Love is kind and sensible, and senseless violence cannot, and will not, prevail in the face of Love. To stop this violence, we have to speak out against it.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said that, “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” Four months ago, upon arriving to Common Ground as a FoodCorps service member, I discovered that the mission of Common Ground is to help people find connections to the local environment, to each other, and to opportunities for learning and engagement. Today I experienced a school become a community, a community commit to improving its local environment, and a group of individuals who will never stop engaging in the power of Love over violence.

If the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others, today I found myself at Common Ground.

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