Catalina Martinez

How do we build resilient girls? How do you build resiliency in your own life?

With three graduate degrees from URI – MS in Oceanography, MMA in Marine Affairs, and an MBA – and a distinguished career with the U.S. Federal Government, Catalina Martinez achieved significant academic and professional success against all odds. After dropping out of high school and obtaining a GED, she spent many years working with urban school children and victims of domestic violence while pursuing her education. Throughout her life, Martinez has worked to bridge the equity divide by developing opportunities for groups historically underrepresented and underserved, and she remains determined to help increase potential for life success for individuals born to challenging circumstances.

photo by Agapao Productions

When I saw the questions that YW She Shines™ posed to the 2015 Women of Achievement recipients, I connected immediately. As a Hispanic woman from an underserved community, I’ve faced a great deal of adversity in my life, and I had to learn at a very young age how to turn obstacles into detours instead of allowing them to become outright barriers. This ability to remain determined and resilient, and to be deliberate in my actions, feelings, and thoughts despite challenging circumstances, is what has propelled me through life. That’s not to say that I don’t cave emotionally from time to time, because I certainly do. But it’s not so much about what happens to you, it’s how you respond that matters most.

A courageous young woman I met recently at the RI Job Corps Academy said it best when she said ‘it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re going; it’s not what’s on you, it’s what’s in you.’ Thank you Samantha Harris.

Some people are inherently resilient or come from circumstances that naturally lend themselves toward developing the skills and characteristics of resilience. Thankfully, resilience can be learned, and in my experience, the most resilient people build confidence and strength through navigating difficult situations and overcoming adversity. They learn to solve complex problems and adapt to change, and through trial and error, learn when it’s necessary to reach out for help. They surround themselves with good people who champion them and provide essential guidance and support to help make good choices, and they develop a sense of self worth and compassion through building and maintaining strong, positive relationships.

I believe the greatest challenge for young girls in terms of building resilience is that there is so much destructive messaging around girls and women globally, and the access to this information is immediate and continuous.

I mentor a great deal, and I believe we must teach our girls to look beyond the negativity and expose themselves to new, positive experiences so they don’t limit their vision of who they can become. We have to help our girls shift their thoughts and feelings about who they are and where they fit in the world and in society. Girls also must be prepared to work hard and take chances, and they should be coached to think strategically so that when they face obstacles, they learn how to overcome them. And for those who, like me, may not have started out with the best circumstances, they must always remember that where they begin their lives does not have to determine where they end up.