Eighteen-year-old Nydia Martinez, a 1999 Clemente High graduate, has a different outlook from many of her neighbors who see her school as a ghetto of gangs, pregnant teens, and dabblers in the occult.
Martinez, who hopes to attend a Bible college, saw an opportunity for ministry, where others saw only misery.
For three years, she attended nearby Lane Technical High School, one of Chicago's better schools. While there, her life began to unravel. She fell in with the wrong crowd, abused drugs, and flunked courses. In 1997, thanks to the persistent efforts of a friend, Martinez came to make a Christian commitment.
As a new believer, Martinez immersed herself in Scripture and prayer, coming to the realization that if she transferred to Clemente High she could help other struggling kids.
Soon after her arrival, students in the Clemente High Christian Club told her they had been praying for bold Christian teens to join their ranks. They were not disappointed. Martinez's zeal and compassion re-energized the group, which met once a week for lunch club meetings and on Friday mornings to pray for their school.
Perhaps the most memorable encounter for Martinez occurred in a Clemente High hallway with a student who became a Satanist after falling away from his Christian upbringing. Although Martinez had never met the youth, she says the Holy Spirit told her the boy's name and his involvement with the occult. When she called him by name and explained God's love, the student whipped out a pentagram smeared with his own blood. He said he no longer served God, and he started cursing Martinez.
"His eyes got glassy," Martinez says. "I just said: 'Satan, Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world.' I commanded that Satan let go of his ...1