What’s your super power? That’s what Buck Martinez challenges high school students to think about at his Student ACES (athletics, community, education) workshops. But a super power isn’t running fast. Or jumping high. Martinez teaches the high school athletes that a super power is being compassionate, motivating others or having a great attitude.
“Then you say, ‘how will you use those super powers to be successful in life?’” said Martinez, president and founder of Student ACES.
Since January, Student ACES has held more than 10 complimentary workshops in Miami-Dade County, mentoring about 1,100 teens. In the past two years alone, the nonprofit has mentored an estimated 3,500 students in Miami-Dade with the support of Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). Martinez founded the nonprofit in 2013 to inspire and develop high school student athletes to become young men and women of character, honor and integrity.
“The Student ACES has been great for the culture of our football team,” said Mandrell Nickel, Miami Sunset Senior High School’s football coach. “It has empowered the students to be more aware and accountable. It has given me the opportunity to take a back seat to watch the players lead.”
At the workshops the past several months, the students have practiced working as a team and building character on and off the field. They play dodgeball, kickball and compete in sack races. They also challenge one another in debates- should college students get paid to play sports? And they are pushed to think about their futures.
“I’ll say ‘talk to me like you’re 28 years old now. What have you done? How’d you get there? Who helped you?’ It makes them get out of the present,” Martinez said. “It’s hard for a kid to realize how fast life goes.”
The workshops also teach the students to be prepared and think on their feet. Martinez will often pretend a recruiter has showed up and wants to interview the students, forcing them to learn how to carry a spontaneous yet informative conversation.
Martinez looks forward to continuing these workshops and mentoring even more students. These Student ACES workshops are also held in Broward and Palm Beach counties. As part of a sponsorship agreement with FPL, Martinez plans to train 37,600 high school student athletes by the end of 2023, many of which will be in Miami-Dade County.
“FPL is proud tosupport organizations that break down barriers to opportunities for students;after all, they are the state’s future leaders and it’s critical they are giventhe tools to thrive,” said Pam Rauch, FPL’s vice president of External Affairsand Economic Development.