BOVINA, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — After coming to the U.S. from Honduras as a boy, Fernando Martinez started school at Bovina in seventh grade. His time at Bovina High School, however, was bookended with tragedies, but there was also plenty of hope and joy.
Fernando always loved sports and was very involved during his freshman year. Then, when he was just 14 years old, his mother died.
“Everything just went downhill,” he said. “I just started doing bad in school. I didn’t want to come to school and I just wanted to quit sports.”
That’s when his then-principal, Dan Castillo, came in.
“It started off as someone that was in need,” said Castillo, who still works as the principal there at Bovina High School. “A kid that just needed somebody that was stable in his life, somebody that he knew was going to be there from one day to the next.”
The two got to know each other little by little. Castillo knew he wanted to help Fernando. He first decided to become his guardian, but ultimately chose to adopt him, to help him get his citizenship.
“He finally asked me the question, ‘Hey, would you like if I adopted you?’ I was like, ‘That’d be awesome, you know.’ And after that, I got into sports again,” said Fernando.
Castillo said, “Just me being there for him turned into a father’s love for a son, you know. Someone that would do anything and sacrifice anything to see his son succeed in anything that he does.”
It grew from there. Fernando even added Castillo to his name, now carrying the full name Fernando Martinez Castillo.
“One of my favorite memories is, I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know what it takes to be a good son to a dad,'” Fernando recalled. “We both started laughing. He said, ‘I don’t know how to be a dad, either.’ You know, and we both were both learning.”
Then, his senior year, life dealt Fernando another tough hand.
“I got hurt. I ruptured my pancreas and I had to go to the hospital in Lubbock and get surgery,” he said. “I was out for a couple of months and my dad was right next to right next to me in the hospital bed every day.”
His football career was over, but not the rest of his story. Fernando still got to participate in several other activities and said he ended his high school years on a good note.
“Hopefully, we can add a lot of chapters going forward,” said Castillo. “So, to me, this is just the prologue.”
As far as his citizenship, Castillo said Fernando is a citizen because he is his adopted son. However, they are still working on getting documents. He said that process has been lengthened because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, Fernando is in his freshman year at Amarillo College, and his family is behind him all the way.
He said he plans to get his degree in business and marketing, working hard to get where he wants to be.
Castillo said Fernando is his family, and his relatives feel the same way about him. He also said he wants to continue to keep teaching Fernando the same values his late mother taught him.
“His work ethic, you know, his just genuineness, his love for others, and his willing to sacrifice, make sacrifices to help others out. Those are things that his mom instilled in him, and that I’m just trying to reinforce.”