One of Rise's treasured employees, Vanessa Martinez demonstrates dedication beyond compare. Vanessa's commitment to making a difference in our students' lives is personified through her enthusiasm and accomplishments.
Vanessa was born and raised here in Houston, Texas. She was a student at McArthur High School and when she was 18, was accepted to the Barbara Zahn School of Modeling. Her mother took her there initially to help with her confidence and to build her self-esteem. While there, Vanessa loved learning to walk the catwalk and trying out the different styles and fashions that were available to her, but most importantly, she loved gaining a feeling of self-worth and importance. Vanessa joined the VAST Academy at Houston Community College (HCC) after graduating from high school. The program helped Vanessa become more independent and more confident in doing things on her own.
The professors at VAST encourage all of their students to not be afraid of the mainstream world. They inspire their students to follow their dreams and to never let anyone limit their potential. This was just what Vanessa needed to hear to help her accomplish her goals. While at HCC, Vanessa enjoyed working with her family at her father’s dental clinic. However, she wanted to find something that she could do on her own. With the help of VAST director Sue Moraska, Vanessa was able to connect with The Rise School and quickly found that it was a perfect fit.
Vanessa has always had a special place in her heart for children and wanted to work with them, especially those with disabilities. She wanted an opportunity to impact children’s lives the way Vanessa’s teachers have impacted hers. Her first days at Rise were a little overwhelming, but she soon fell in love with the school, staff and students that make The Rise School such a wonderful place to learn.
After joining the Rise staff, Vanessa decided to join the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification program. She took classes every Saturday, where she learned about the different behaviors of children along with other lessons that would help her in the classroom. Vanessa was able to take the class with other Rise staff members and they often studied together and helped each other throughout the program. This past July, Vanessa completed the 120 hours needed to apply for her CDA.
At Rise we have great expectations. Those expectations focus on our children, but extend through staff and beyond. Christopher Scott, one of Rise’s most enthusiastic employees is a perfect example of always reaching for the stars. Though born with a development challenge, Chris has risen to a position in life that exemplifies dedication and passion.
As a teaching assistant at the Rise School of Houston for the past 12 years, Christopher is in a position daily to inspire fellow staff members, parents and children with and without disabilities. In his work and his life, he is a constant and remarkable reminder of the possibilities in life to achieve goals and make dreams come true.
Beyond his work at Rise, Chris co-starred in the movie “My Brother” in 2007, playing the part of an adult with Down syndrome who inspires his adult brother to “do the right thing.” “My Brother” won the juried award for best picture at the Black Film Festival in Miami in the fall of 2006. The Founders Award for Outstanding Achievement in Independent Cinema was awarded to Chris for his role in the film. Chris was honored by the Robert Horry Foundation as a “Hero” for his work at Rise, his work in the community, and his work in film. More recently, he has filmed public service announcements for the National Down Syndrome Congress.
As a Houston native, a product of the Houston public schools and community college systems, an active and productive member of the local community, and a long standing Houston Rockets fan (he was a 2008 Clutch City Champion!), Chris is a wonderful example of never underestimating the capacity of each human being, regardless of their age or challenge.