While most of his classmates were sleeping through Zoom classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sierra Vista High School senior Cesar Martinez was wide awake making money.
Using a printer he found cheap online, he printed COVID protocol stickers and signs and sold them to nearby businesses — keep six feet apart, please wear a mask, etc. An offensive lineman on the varsity football team, Cesar, 18, revels in the ethos of enterprise and hard work. “Me and my mom made our own business,” he said. She sewed masks, he put designs on them. “We made our own money and would split it. That kept us busy for a long time.”
When Cesar wasn’t busy with school or football practice, he’d often rise at 4 a.m. to help his mother, Maria Elena Martinez, prepare for a nearby swap meet or pick up supplies to deliver. “I got all of my love for work from my mom,” he said. “At a really young age she had us working and getting stuff for ourselves. I love the way she taught us. It just grew into me and I like to work for the things that I want,” he said. “She’s an amazing person. I love her to death.”
Cesar drives a 2008 GMC Canyon truck that he bought with his own money and continues to modify, despite a recent episode with a broken transmission. While off-roading with his brother last December, he was called to visit his sick uncle. They arrived too late to see him before he died of COVID-19. They keep a small shrine for him in the living room.
His mother suffered a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Cesar aspires to be an electrician but continues a successful Instagram enterprise producing and selling commemorative plaques for family, engagement and wedding photos.
Hours after graduation at home, Cesar still has on his cap and gown stands on the driveway. For a photo, he stuffs his family into a vintage Volkswagen van that he helped his brother restore. No masks, no worries. The pandemic is in his rearview mirror.
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