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Zoey Martinez, a senior at Cheyenne’s Triumph High, poses for a portrait at the Laramie County Retired Education Personnel luncheon, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, at Red Lion Hotel. Martinez was awarded the organization’s citizenship award, which included a certificate and $100 cash gift. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – When Zoey Martinez began her freshman year at Cheyenne’s Triumph High, she didn’t have much of an expectation from the school or herself.

In middle school, she was getting D’s and F’s in all of her classes. She had no motivation to do any better than the bare minimum in school.

So, she was given a choice when she was leaving middle school: attend a “normal” high school like Cheyenne’s East, Central or South High, or go to Triumph High, the local alternative high school. Her older sister had attended the latter and told Zoey about what the experience would be like at Triumph.

Zoey knew that if she went to a typical high school, she’d end up dropping out as soon as she turned 16. She chose Triumph. If anything, she’d only have to wait a little more than a year before she could legally drop out.

That person isn’t the Zoey of today, though.

The young woman who sat in one of the large conference rooms inside Red Lion Hotel on Monday is poised, ready for anything, but especially her future.

She’s combining her junior and senior years of high school to graduate early. She’s holding down a job. She’s the student body president of Triumph. She serves on the Mayor’s Youth Council. She’s a member of the Zonta club, Skills USA and DECA, among other organizations.

She almost can’t recognize the Zoey who entered Triumph her freshman year feeling downtrodden, the one who thought D’s and F’s in classes were the perfect fit for her.

On Monday, Zoey received the Laramie County Retired Education Personnel’s latest citizenship award for all of her hard work. As a reward, the Triumph student got a certificate and a $100 cash gift.

In a letter honoring Zoey for her achievement, Triumph school counselor John Ellis wrote that “Zoey does many things that make her outstanding ... but the thing that is most remarkable about her is what I would call her ‘quiet leadership.’

“Zoey is not one that often says a whole lot, but she always sets an example by her actions. Many people talk about what is right, but Zoey lives what is right each day. I wish I had 200 more students just like her at Triumph.”

Zoey said she was surprised when she found out she was receiving this honor, but no one else was.

“My family definitely wasn’t that shocked when I told them,” she said, laughing. “They were like, ‘Obviously you got it; you’re outstanding.’”

While she didn’t get too detailed, Zoey struggled a lot in her early years due to her parents’ divorce and being the youngest of seven siblings and step-siblings. But now, she wants to be an example to other students, showing that if you have a dream or an idea, you can achieve it, as long as you work hard and continue to believe in yourself.

“I want people to hear my voice, and I want to give a voice to people who might not feel like they can speak out,” she said. “Going to Triumph has really helped me do that. I think some people have a bad attitude toward Triumph, but it changed my life.”

Zoey’s best friend, Sydnee Kimball, attended Monday’s luncheon with her said she has loved seeing her friend grow into such a strong young woman.

“I think she can do anything she sets her mind to,” Sydnee said. “She’s so amazing, and I think Zoey could be president, if she really wanted to. I’m so happy she’s getting this award, but I’m definitely not surprised by it.”

After graduating in May, Zoey plans on attending Laramie County Community College alongside Sydnee. She isn’t fully sure what she wants to do for a career, but since she just obtained her CNA license, she’s thinking possibly a career in the medical field or as a teacher.

Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at elfylucille@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.

Ellen Fike is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at efike@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter @EllenLFike

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