NEWARK, N.J.- A decade ago, 31-year-old Goldin Martinez never envisioned himself giving back to the community through mental and physical empowerment.

Born and raised in Washington Heights, New York, Martinez was introduced to the hardships of abandonment and poverty early in life. Martinez’s drug-afflicted parents gave him up shortly after he was born, leading him to live a life in foster homes and being tempted by the negative influences of inner city life. His struggles had even affected how he performed in school, where he was often inattentive and unmotivated —  until the day he was given a special book. 

“What helped turned around my life was a teacher putting a book in my hand, and the book was called ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’,” says Martinez. 

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The book, given to him by a high school teacher, changed Martinez’s perspective about life. At 16-years-old, the fuse for his passion of literature was lit, enabling him to read 200 books by the time he turned 18. 

“In those two years, I feel like I grew more than the prior 16 years that I lived, just from reading,” says Martinez. 

His passion for reading complimented his love for fitness. From 18 to 21, Martinez became a fitness trainer after being discovered by Charles Lasalle, founder of City Gym Boys, a New York-based organization that teaches young people to work out and live an active lifestyle. From that point forward, Martinez was inspired to start his own organization to provide free fitness training for children in 2009 called Get Focused.

In 2015, Martinez added the literacy component to the program and named it Get Focused on Reading. The program gathers books to be sold to children at local events where they use exercise as payment. 

Originally founded in New York City, Martinez spread his program to Newark when moving to New Jersey after the birth of his now 2-year-old son, Lucas. The Get Focused program now has active participation in Newark and partners with organizations such as the New Jersey Devils, the YMCA of Newark, and the Girls & Boys Club of Newark. Martinez has even promoted his program nationally, partnering with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which launched shortly after Get Focused did in 2010.

“What I love about living in Newark is that everyone knows each other,” says Martinez. “People love to collaborate. People love to unify. There is a lot going on here.”

Having an increase in the need for books, Martinez has created a system where churches and other communities can host their own book drives for Get Focused, and in return receive a small remittance. He also does a mobile book distribution that travels throughout Newark giving free books to kids.

When coming up with new ways to engage children, Martinez says he visits classrooms and tries to figure out what they like by seeing things from their perspective. By recruiting individuals who motivate children, Martinez wants to create “hero makers,” like his high school teacher and so many others who have inspired him.

Community service, literacy, and health make up the three vital pillars of Martinez’s life. “I decided to combine those three things and create Get Focused, which is what Get Focused is all about,” says Martinez. “We promote those three things every day to thousands and thousands of kids.”

In terms of future goals, Martinez says he plans on expanding the efforts of Get Focused to include providing children with school essentials, such as backpacks, books, and supplies.

“We want to become a company that provides our children with all the tools and coaching and training they need to become successful.”

To learn more about Get Focused or make a contribution to the program, click here.