Remembering Derek Martinez On Graduation Day

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Derek Martinez and his mother Paula Paña. Courtesy image

Remembering Derek Martinez On Graduation Day

ESPAÑOLA  – On Saturday, May 16, Española Valley High School’s Class of 2015 attended their graduation and received their diplomas. One of their members, Derek Martinez who passed away five years ago was not there to receive his diploma. But his classmates, the school and his mother worked together to remember Derek Saturday.

In a special remembrance for Derek Martinez, Española  Public Schools honored him with a seat in the graduating class and a diploma. Several of Derek’s friends also spoke about him and remembered his gently ways.

In an especially touching moment Paula Paña addressed the class and remembered her son

Below is the speech Paula Paña delivered remembering her son, Derek Martinez.

Remembering Derek

Good morning graduates, family & friends,

Today, I am here as a proud mother honoring my son, Derek Christopher Martinez as today would also be his graduation day.

Derek had a very kind, gentle and humble spirit. He was somewhat shy and very quiet in nature, he didn’t comment on many things, although observed everything. He was rather cautious and one had to earn his trust before he would open up to you. I just loved to hear Derek laugh, because when he laughed, it was full of heart from deep down in his soul.

Derek was the eldest of my two sons. He had one younger brother, Devin. Derek was never the daring type, but he sure would dare his little brother to do some pretty crazy things. As in the movie “The Sandlot” and while we were vacationing in Puerto Peñasco, the boys were out swimming in the pool. There were some girls swimming by them and Derek and a couple of his cousins dared Devin to pretend he was drowning… he did it…  anytime Derek and his cousin Christopher wanted anything from Madrina Lolo, they would put Devin up to asking…. And they got it…

They were very close and would always fight just as normal siblings do. I used to tell my boys, “no matter where you are, you are always together, so take care of each other” and even though they wouldn’t say it, I know they watched out for one another and now they are brothers together forever.

There was not a day that went by that I didn’t tell my boys just how much I loved them…  I used to give them little love bites, even though Derek would fight me on them… but they were “mama’s little loves bites” and he tolerated it.

He loved to play football, enjoyed video games, skateboarding and astrology. His favorite meals were green chili chicken enchiladas and Nana’s homemade chicken and rice. It was revealed to me by one of his friends that in their pass time they were creating a comic book. This did not come as much of a surprise to me, since drawing was one of Derek’s talents from a very young age.

Derek always did very well in school and had just finished his seventh grade school year, it always seemed to come easy to him as he excelled in every subject, although, not so much in PE. During his seventh grade school year he was awarded the United States Achievement Academic Award in Mathematics. Several teachers came to see me after his passing and expressed what a wonderful student he was.

Derek often spoke of going to college. He was young, although ambitious and going to college was already embodied in his mind. Derek used to talk about being a mechanic and I always wondered what kind of mechanic he would be. He was such an intelligent boy that in my mind, there were no limits for him.

Parents, we just don’t know what tomorrow brings, so hug your kids, love them and encourage them everyday. Never hold back from telling them how proud you are of them and how much you love them. I know as parents we want to protect our children from heartaches and struggles. We as parents need to challenge our children, even if it leads to failure, because every failure is a lesson learned and from this, they will they become stronger individuals. Allow them to go out and do good things. Trust that the morals and values you have instilled in them will be revealed with time.

Graduates, congratulations!!!  It is your time to shine. Go out and conquer this world, work hard, be disciplined and never give up. Follow your passion and stay true to yourselves. Dream, because the future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.

It was always my dream for my boys to continue on to college, and with that, I have established an Endowment Scholarship through Northern New Mexico College in their honor. The Derek and Devin Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship would not exist if I had not lost my boys, so in all essence, my boy’s are helping students like you succeed as well. Take advantage of all the possibilities out there and as I used to tell Derek almost daily…”make good choices.”  Derek and Devin don’t have the opportunities you have today, so make sound decisions. Realize the choices you make today can affect your life tomorrow and possibly for years to come.

As for me, I stand here today so very proud of my son and so very grateful that God blessed me with such a beautiful boy. Derek touched so many lives out there. I never truly realized just how many people knew and admired him in one way or the other.

Derek, I miss you so very much and I can’t wait to be with you again. I love you son with all my heart and even though you can’t be here today, I am celebrating you!  

Thank you.

All images of Derek Martinez provided courtesy of Paula Paña
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