With her 2-year-old daughter looking on, Eneida Martinez built a bridge across a muddy rivulet in the Long Wharf Nature Preserve—and then crossed over to a new life as a high-school graduate.
The footbridge, which Martinez installed Wednesday afternoon with the help of classmates, is the 18-year-old’s senior “capstone” project at the Sound School.
Starting last November, Martinez designed and built the bridge. In the process, she learned to rely on herself. She discovered a talent for “logistics,” as she gathered materials and enlisted support. And she reaffirmed a commitment to helping her community.
Just after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Martinez was overseeing the installation of her bridge, which spans a muddy rivulet in the preserve. Classmates dug holes in the squishy ground, then lowered in the bridge’s vertical supports.
Martinez said she had “not a clue” about construction when she began the project. But she walks the nature reserve “constantly” and was frustrated by the lack of a bridge on the path. “I struggle coming over the area,” she said. Only a muddy plank served to keep pedestrians out of the mud.
So when her teacher suggested the project, she jumped on it. “Who better than someone who knows the area?” said Martinez, who lives just a few blocks away.
Justin Elicker, the head of the New Haven Land Trust, said a previous, smaller footbridge was destroyed in a recent hurricane. The land trust got a grant from New Haven Green Fund to build a new one.
With money for materials from the New Haven Land Trust, Martinez constructed a bridge, and later added handrails at the land trust’s request. Martinez said she at first thought building a bridge wouldn’t be a big deal, then discovered all the coordinating and planning involved to make it happen.
“I learned I have great logistics,” she said. “I learned to depend on myself.”
Environmental Science teacher Peter Solomon (at right in photo) called Martinez’s project is a stand-out “capstone.”
“I think Eneida has one of the strongest ones we have this year,” he said. “She’s taken a lot of responsibility on a lot of different fronts.”
This summer, Martinez will have a Youth@Work position working for the New Haven Land Trust before starting an Americorps position with Public Allies, where she’ll be assigned to work for a local organization.
After that, Martinez said, she plans to go to a four-year college that “has some sort of a program that will help teen moms.” She hopes to find a school that will let her live on campus with a child, or provide daycare for her daughter Zaley.
Martinez said she wants to pursue a career helping others, maybe by becoming a therapist or teacher.