Division of Juvenile Justice

At 91, DJJ volunteer has no plans to stop

DJJ volunteer sitting in a chair.
Grace Martinez, 91, has been a volunteer at DJJ since 1998.

Grace Martinez has volunteered at Ventura since 1989

It was 1989 when teacher Grace Martinez, nearing retirement, began looking to volunteer in the community, eventually choosing youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

She found her calling at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VCYF) in Camarillo, in the surrogate parent program in which she legally stood in for parents of youth who had no one in order to make key educational decisions.

Thirty-three years later, the 91-year-old is still at it as a dedicated volunteer tutor, mentor, and officer in the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) at VYCF.

The CAC meets regularly with youth and annually awards tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships for youth to continue higher educational and vocational pursuits after leaving DJJ.

Martinez loves the interaction with youth, especially imparting her passion for reading, which she taught in public schools during her career. She continues to tutor youth two nights a week at Ventura in reading, writing and math.

“The best part is making connections with the youth,” she said. “I’ve always found it very rewarding and enjoyed every minute of it.”

In her spare time, she enjoys reading for pleasure.

“There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book,” she said.

Even though DJJ is closing, the longtime volunteer says CAC will remain active. She invites former DJJ youth to write to them, especially if they have educational needs that the CAC might be able to support financially.

By Mike Sicilia, DJJ Deputy Press Secretary

Did you know?

Dec. 5, 2022, is United Nations International Volunteer Day. Learn more at the website.

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