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Discovering Who I Am at Mercy

August 22, 2018
By Deb Daley

“Just having the sense that you were welcome to try and be part of anything at Mercy, I began to discover my gifts and develop more deeply my values and who I wanted to be,” said Jeni Jaworski Martinez ’88. 

That sense of empowerment, commitment to service for God, and sense of self led Jeni to a resume of international work overseas in small communities of faith.  It also was where she met her husband, grew to love different cultures, and ultimately led to her current job as the Director of the Loyola Scholars Program at Creighton Prep High School.

It was an interesting journey for a young girl in 1984 who was the only student from her grade school to attend Mercy. Her parents encouraged her to attend, and she is glad they did.

“I tell people it was the best decision. Mercy is where I began to discover more deeply who I am in God’s eyes and who and what I am called to be and do,” she said.

Because she didn’t know anyone when she entered Mercy, Jeni tried out for volleyball.

“The coaches made us feel welcome and helped us get to know one another,” she added.

She participated in volleyball all four years, as well as basketball, soccer, and track. She also was involved in Student Council, Campus Ministry, and class productions. 

“I remember injuring my knee senior year and was unable to play soccer in the spring.  I tried out for the spring musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and it was an amazing experience,” she said.

After graduation, Jeni attended the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, where she double majored in Spanish and Political Science.  She participated in the Study Abroad program in Spain where she became enthralled with the Spanish language and culture.  She also did an immersion trip in Mexico her senior year which confirmed her desire to travel and participate in service after graduation.

She spent a year living and serving in Venezuela where she was part of a pastoral team at a local parish.  From there, she went to Central America and worked in an orphanage in Guatemala.  Jeni met her husband, volunteered in a young adult education program, and continued her parish involvement while raising four children in a small town in the highlands of Guatemala.

As her children got older, the family decided to move to Omaha to pursue more educational opportunities. Jeni used her gifts and talents to serve bilingual families, first in 2011 as a Bilingual Family Support Worker for the Nebraska Children’s Home and in 2013 as the Director of the Bilingual Religious Ed Program at Holy Name Parish.  She took on a new position in 2015 at Holy Name School as the Latino Outreach and Family Liaison Coordinator. In August 2018 she became the Director of the Loyola Scholars Program. This program is a year-round, three year academic and leadership achievement program serving middle school males in the Omaha metro area who are academically talented, have leadership potential and whose households have significant financial need.  By nurturing gifts of the mind and spirit, Loyola Scholars strives to form young men of faith, scholarship, leadership and service, ready for a college prep education.

“The most important thing for me when I look back on my life’s journey is to see and recognize it has been God-led.  That is why I think I look back at my time at Mercy and truly treasure the gift of being encouraged to dig deep and discover my gifts and be proud and confident in those.  At the same time, to put those gifts at God’s service,” she added. 

The Mercy graduate and mother has two daughters attending the school: Jade, a junior, and Cecilia, a sophomore.  She is on the Monarch Parents Club Board as a representative for the sophomore class, and she and her husband co-chaired the silent auction workers for FIESTA.

“I tell people Mercy is a special place.  I let them interpret what I mean but I also leave it as an invitation to check the school out because to some extent you must experience it and feel it. People who went there know what I mean,” Jeni added.