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Celebrating Local Black Youth: Zhia Martin

Join us in celebrating Black excellence this month and throughout the year. This Black History Month we highlight local Black youth and the impact they’ve made in their communities. You can find all of the Local Black Heroes we’ve featured since 2020 here. Sign up for our to get updates in your inbox and learn more about the impact of local heroes in your community.

Mattawan High School student Zhia Martin sets a high standard of excellence and authenticity, helping others. An 11th-grade basketball and soccer player, advanced placement student, local volunteer, and singer in the Mattawan Honor’s Choir, Martin shares, “I want to be an example for others by my hard work, giving back, and being authentically who I am.”


Inspired by her mom and grandmother, Martin follows closely in their footsteps. Her mom, she shares has introduced her to a wealth of knowledge about life. “She helps me navigate through every area of my life,” says Martin.

Her grandma, who she calls Granice, sets an example of what hard work and strong spirituality can do. “I admire the way she lives her life,” Martin shares thoughtfully.


As an 11th-grader, Martin is focusing her time and energy on what she’d like to do after graduation but balances the playbook by working hard to stay in the present. “Right now my focus is to give everything I have to school, sports, and my friends and family,” she shares.

Though she hasn’t quite decided where she would like to land after graduation, Martin is considering becoming a doctor one day.

I hope to set an example of Black excellence for other Black youth to look up to so they are encouraged to be their authentic selves as they navigate life. Zhia Martin

Giving Back

Zhia gives back to the community by sharing her time through volunteer work. Oftentimes, Martin can be found helping around Mitchell & Gains Consulting Group, the consulting business her mom owns. When she’s not busy helping there, she might be helping her stepdad with his cleaning business, Gowens Good Cleaning Services, LLC. In the summer, she lends a hand to the Kalamazoo Jaguars, a rocket football team that her dad coaches. “It’s important to help others,” she shares.

Be Yourself

Being a Black student in a predominantly white school comes with challenges, including (but certainly not limited to) feelings of isolation and a lack of representation. “It can be really difficult sometimes,” Martin shares. “It can be tempting to want to do what you can to fit in, but you’ll find your happiness in continuing to be who you truly are… You have to keep your head up.”

To combat these challenges, Martin surrounds herself with Black excellence in her community and social media newsfeeds. “It helps me stay focused on who I am,” she explains.

Zhia Martin sets an example of excellence and the importance of authenticity through her willingness to be herself above all else. This young powerhouse is moving and shaking Van Buren County, and her impact will be felt for ages to come.