Liliana Martinez, Youth Apprentice

lilianaheaderLiliana Martinez is in her third year of the youth apprenticeship at Cycles for Change, and when asked what has kept her in the program, she says, “I have a voice.”

A junior at River’s Edge Academy in St. Paul, Liliana enjoys her humanities/history class the most. “The teacher explains history differently, from different perspectives, and shows different sides,” she explains.

Being able to learn how people see the world differently is also something she has taken away from her experience in the youth apprenticeship program. “We are so welcoming to everybody [at C4C],” she says. “It doesn’t matter who you are—you can come in and get your bike fixed. We have homeless people come in to work on their bikes and they are treated like everyone else. It’s taught me that everyone is equal and has changed the way I treat other people by seeing the way people are treated here.”

But besides preparing Liliana with these interpersonal skills, C4C has also turned her into a bike mechanic—something she wasn’t initially sure she wanted to be. “I was at a job fair and thought I’d just go to the C4C table and see what they were about,” she recalls. “The youth manager said ‘We ride bikes and get paid,’ so I signed up. Part of me didn’t want it but my grandpa talked me into thinking it would be really cool for me. I think I seemed uninterested when I was talking at the job fair because I was unsure about the program, but that didn’t work for me I guess, because I got the job.”

And as it turns out, it was the perfect fit for Liliana. “I love the environment [at C4C],” she says. “I meet new people here every day I work. I make friends. The other apprentices are like brothers and sisters. I feel so welcomed here, like a family.”

C4C incorporates the youth apprentices into every aspect of the organization, from Open Shop to community classes to decision making, and it’s something every youth raves about. “C4C is really involved with the youth—if we want something done, it gets done,” Liliana says. “We are a part of getting things done in the organization. We are really engaged.”

Liliana works at the St. Paul shop on Volunteer Night; Women, Trans, and Femme Open Shop night; and Open Shop night. Her favorite time to work is Volunteer Night because she gets to connect with the other volunteers that come in each week. “I like to patch inner tubes and teach volunteers how to do it,” she says. “We all sit in a circle and chat and that’s really fun.”

Having a voice, learning empathy, and connecting with others will go a long way and Liliana is ready for the long haul. “I want to be a social worker,” she says. “I feel like I can really help people. I know their struggles because I’ve been through things and I can help people with those problems.”

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