ORLANDO, Fla. – Cypress Creek High graduate Kayla Martinez was awarded a full scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.
The 19-year-old was surprised with the $17,628-scholarship at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts’ Applause Awards June 1. AMDA is a sponsor of the awards.
“When I was sitting there, I was like ‘Well this is the moment.’ Whether they say my name or don’t say my name, I have to keep going,” Martinez said Monday on News 6 at Nine.
The scholarship is for four years tuition, room and board at the performing arts school, meant to make up the funds Martinez would need after FAFSA aid.
“I feel like this is just so perfect.” Martinez said. “Like is it even real or not? I’m just really excited and really grateful for it.”
Martinez started at Cypress Creek High last spring. Her parents live in Venezuela and have been blocked from re-entering the United States. The family has made 16 attempts to return to the U.S. since 2011. In that time, they decided to send Martinez back to the U.S., where she was born to continue her education.
Martinez has lived alone over the past year in Central Florida while going to school and balancing two jobs to pay for rent and other living expenses. Martinez made sure to still make time to pursue her passion for the arts and perform in school musicals.
“To say never give up is an understatement compared to what Kayla has done,” Jonathan Juarbe, from AMDA said. “It’s just an honor to be able to award her.”
Martinez said when she came home after the award ceremony, she called her parents around midnight to share the news. She said though they answered the phone tired, they quickly woke up and celebrated on the phone with her.
“It was still kind of hard not to hug them but they’re really proud of me. They’re really happy,” Martinez said.
Juarbe said the community’s support behind Martinez was a factor in their decision to award her the scholarship.
“You want to look at an AMDA student as an ambassador. To be able to have someone perform, be talented, but also give to the community, work incredibly hard, to make these sacrifices that many other students don’t even understand is a blessing to have,” Juarbe said.
Juarbe said AMDA is prepared to help support Martinez in her transition to a new city and school.
“[She’s] looking at over 100 performances in four years. A lot of auditioning, a lot of business savvy mind set and networking. If it’s what you love, it’s the perfect school for you.”
Martinez plans to start classes in the summer semester and is excited to continue to pursue her passion.
“When you really work hard, in the end, things come together,” Martinez said.
Orange County Public School officials said after receiving many requests from people asking how they can help support Martinez the district set up a registry to get her started with what she needs for college.
People who want to help get her college ready can order anything from this Amazon registry here.