From being raised in Puerto Rico to leading as this year’s Class Whip, Joalexis Martir (JM) is making a big impact in the lives of at-risk teens in Jamestown. Recently, Valerie Weber (VM) of the CLN Branding & Marketing committee spoke with Joalexis about his CLN experience to date and where the future might go.
[Transcripted from audio recording.]
VW: Who are you?
JM: That’s a good question. I’m a simple guy, to be honest with you at the end of the day. However, the lens that I use to view life has changed through life because of my role and my responsiblities.
So, I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a member of a community, and I am a citizen of the United States. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. So, all that comes to mind when it comes to saying who I am. So I’m a person who has a story to tell and believes that every interaction, even from you right now, I will learn something that I can apply. I am the Director of the Teen Center at the Lakewood YMCA. That’s one of my responsibilities. It takes about eight hours of my day. In that role, I have the opportunity to meet young adults — from the youngest 12 years old, all the way to 19 — and, sort of leave a little bit of a stamp in their life, helping them navigate life outside of school. Which could be challenging right now, especially when you are interacting with such a big group. You have to learn how to realize you’re talking to a 12-year-old, and he’s not going to see life like the 19-year-old sees it.
The key to that is listening. Do a lot of listening. Don’t expect them to listen to you. At least let them know that you’re here to listen to them, and it has (to) unfold the relationship. Organic. I’m also a father of four. My oldest is 21, my youngest is 10. So I guess that’s where the practice comes from in order to interact with the group of kids that I interact (with) daily. I’m a husband of a beautiful wife who was born and raised in Jamestown – that’s how I ended up being in Chautauqua County. I met her here about 18 years ago and we’ve been together since. She’is a big part of the reason why I have the passion of interacting with kids who are, I don’t like the term troubled kids, but kids who are at risk.
When I have time off, and I’m available to do some things for myself, I like to play basketball. I like to stay fit, and I interact with the parents, now. I try to influence the dads. That’s me.
VW: That’s great. How did you hear about CLN?
JM: My wife went through CLN, she was one of the first groups when Kirk and his wife, Katie, took over. My wife was part of that first class.
I had an idea, small background because she was super excited about the experience, the people she met, the connections, the networking. Recently I’ve been with Ally Co., which is Katie Castro and her husband Javier. She approached me saying that somebody wanted to sponsor someone, and that she thought of me. And so I brought it to my director. He went to CLN on himself, so when I brought it to his attention, he actually was all for it. And I saw him supporting this without even questions asked, which brought some some hunger, some of curiosity,I definitely want to try it. That’s how I found out about CLN this year.
VW: So, how do you like it so far?
JM: I love it. Katie has done an amazing job to make it in a way where not so much, just interacting, but the way she creates it, you interact with your peers, you know, the relationship you’re building with the people in CLN. Which is fascinating, because to be honest with you, I tell my wife: “You do not realize how many vehicles of the same kind there is in the county until you buy that car, right? You can drive by then you don’t even notice, but once you buy that vehicle you realize, oh my God there’s like, 20 of them!” So that’s how it feels when I’m doing this CLN class. Like, I have seen a lot of these members of CLN this class in the community but I have not interacted with them. And so i’m actually part of a group that we have something in common and learning about their life and learning about who they are. And I personally, every time we interact, every time we have a group meeting, I try to learn something new from someone that I have not interacted with before. Because there’s 30 of us in this class. So, that’s been fascinating.
VW: Biggest class ever.
JM: I heard! I guess I want to say the best. It’s still young, still early, ha ha.
VW: I think the class of 2020 will fight you over being the best class ever, but that’s okay.
Congratulations on being class whip.
JM: Thank you, thank you. Appreciate that.
VW: So, I’m curious; were you the first person that learned everyone’s names for the challenge?
JM: I did not. I am actually terrible at learning people’s names, I confess that. That will be one challenge that I would never win. I’m better with faces. As a matter of fact, I remember approaching Kyle and Kirk and suggesting maybe next year you can take the names away and have that person trying to match the name with the faces because people learn differently.
VW: Which part of the program do you think you’re going to get the most out of, the leadership part, the networking part, or the two equally?
JM: I’m hoping the two equally. I keep an open mind, and I try to go with a blank page every time I go there. Because I know that there’s something to learn. When I found out about how long the retreat was going to be, I was very curious how they going keep us that engaged, that entertained or busy, for that long? And I tell you what, if they would have done Sunday as well, I would stay there glued to that chair. They way they do the networking and the leadership, it just flows. Yeah, so I’m hoping to both equally, even if I get one more than the other. It doesn’t matter. Anyone around me will benefit from that, but I’m hoping both.
VW: Obviously, you enjoyed the retreat.
JM: I did.
VW: And you’ve had one class session so far?.
JM: Yes, the one at the Comedy Center and the welcome event in Westfield. And then we have one coming up in April. Yeah, it’s all on my calendar already.VW: You can look forward to every single one of them.
JM: Yes, yes. Katie just emailed us maybe about a few days ago the content list of our class. And that’s one thing that I thought about when you just mentioned about the networking. I kind of find myself being a social butterfly when it comes to networking, I also second guess myself because I don’t like to bother people. That’s something I’m gonna be testing myself this year.
When I’m here at the YMCA, it’s all about the members, it’s all about the kids that I’m working with. I’m more about building a structure that can just run itself. It doesn’t have to be a specific person leading it. It is more about the kids, their need, and the resources in the community. You know, if I can just get that linked in a way, that is just naturally just happens. Because they are gonna need the same needs every year. You know, they have to get the school done, their work done, tutoring done, mentoring. It’s just things that it it’s every year. So, the networking part I’m hoping that I can take advantage of this year.