Graduating McAllen student takes next step in pursuing theater dreams

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Being in theater arts for most of her life, Victoria Martinez, a graduating McAllen High School senior, has dreams of becoming an actress and is the first Valley student to earn a trip to the New York City Jimmy awards after winning two Joci Awards in San Antonio.

That is a great first step in her career.

Martinez, 18, said that like many other high school graduating seniors, making “big kid” changes are scary to start, but are necessary to pursue dreams.

The 16th annual Joci Awards is the largest scholarship program for the performing arts in the United States, offering over $150,000 in scholarships for students from San Antonio to the Valley.

Winning two Joci Awards in May for best lead actress in a musical and overall outstanding performer award — the first student ever to get both awards — Martinez garnered $16,000 to pursue a degree in music theater at Elon University in North Carolina.

Victoria Martinez’s Joci Awards medals for lead actress in a musical are seen Thursday, June 6, 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

With her two awards, she becomes the first Valley student to earn a trip to the The National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as the Jimmy Awards in New York City.

The Jimmy Awards are meant to elevate the importance of theater arts education in schools and reward excellence in student performance. The ceremony will highlight the best high school musical theater talent and features students from over 50 regions around the country.

“It’s very exciting and overwhelming but I’m just so proud to be able to represent the Valley,” Martinez said. “We have, and many people don’t know, we have such a flourishing theater community but there’s so much talent here … I’m so glad that I’m just a fraction of the Valley talent that I’m just able to represent nationally.”

Starting out in theater arts at 4 years old, Martinez, who is influenced by her love for movie musicals and the Disney Channel, would participate in a musical every summer until she was 15 years old.

“My mom said I was very anti-social, very nervous all the time and she just needed a nanny or a daycare to take care of me over the summer, since she worked,” Martinez said. “So she found this city of Pharr theater summer program … I was super nervous but I remember an older kid came to grab me by the hand and I was next to her the whole time. It took me a couple of days to really warm up to everything but ever since that day, I stuck with it all these years.”

Victoria Martinez, 18, at the McAllen High School auditorium Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Even going to theater camps in New York City and Los Angeles, it wasn’t until last summer where she decided she wanted a career as a performer.

“Growing up, people would always ask me, ‘What are you going to major in? What do you want to be when you grow up?,’ she said. “And I would never really want to say an actress or a performer because many people’s responses were like ‘Oh, how sweet. You know, it’s just a little dream or whatever.’”

Attending an academic summer camp last year since she had an idea of becoming a dermatologist, Martinez found herself in a cloud of doubt and being unhappy at the camp.

After many calls with her mom and her theater director, she said she came to terms that if she never pursues her dreams, she would regret it for the rest of her life.

“If it fails, at least I try, but I know it’s truly my passion,” Martinez said. “I love telling actual stories, I love connecting with an audience and opening my heart for everyone to see. It’s a way I feel empathy and I am able to connect with an audience through empathy, because I feel like positive change comes with connecting through media.”

Excited to start college in the fall and flood her brain with creativity, she said she will carry the Valley, her parents, her directors and everyone she has got to share a stage with in her heart throughout college and her career.

Asked what advice she could give to Valley theater students, she replied, “Don’t be afraid to try new things. As long as you have the passion and the drive in you, just always remember where you come from and always give thanks to the people that have built you up to be where you are in the present.”

Martinez will travel to New York City for the Jimmy awards later this month and hopes to win best actress in a musical award.