DENVER – Housing Authority of El Paso (HACEP) resident Aileen Martinez was honored with the All-America City Youth Leadership Award on Sunday night in the Mile-High City.
“I am so honored with this amazing award,” Aileen Martinez said. “To stand with our community leaders and share El Paso’s story on a national stage helps break down negative perceptions of El Paso. We are a city of champions and now the world knows.”
The award was bestowed upon Martinez, 14, for her work ethic, leadership and dedication in leading her middle school to three national Chess championship titles, and her ability to overcome adversity and using it to motivate others.
Martinez, previously a Henderson Middle School student who will now attend Jefferson High School, played a pivotal role in Henderson’s chess team. The middle school’s team has won three United States Chess Federation’s National Junior High Championship awards.
“Sharing the stories of HACEP residents who overcome adversity is key to breaking the stigma public housing residents unfairly face,” said HACEP CEO Gerald Cichon. “We are proud that Aileen has been honored with this award and her story serves as an inspiration to us all.”
El Paso was also named a 2018 All-America City on Sunday night. El Paso previously won the award in 1969 and 2010. The El Paso delegation’s theme was “City of Champions,” and the delegation was led by IBF World Champion Jennifer Han.
To win, each community must describe successful efforts to address pressing local challenges. HACEP’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) initiative – which will revitalize HACEP’s housing portfolio by 2020 – was one-third of the All-America City presentation, with Martinez’s story playing an integral role in the presentation.
Martinez took part in El Paso’s delegation competing for the 2018 All-America City Award presentation, hosted by the National Civic League, which recognizes ten cities each year for outstanding civic accomplishments.
The All-America City Youth Leadership Award was created in memory of the National Civic League’s (NCL) former President John Parr who valued the power and impact of youth leadership. Youth, ages 14 to 25, are nominated all over the country when cities apply for the All-America City Award. Each city that is named a finalist allow the youth to advance to the next level.
During the NCL conference in Denver, nominees are narrowed down to five in which they go through an interview with a panel of judges.