Behind the Wheel
The Starfish Connection asked Alan Sosnowitz to mentor Marcos Martinez. In two years, through a shared love of vintage cars, the two have become close friends and allies in helping Marcos succeed in school.
Photograph by Julie Barker
Alan Sosnowitz, a retired automobile designer, is such a devoted gearhead that he creates portraits of beloved cars for collectors. And he judges classic automobiles at regional car shows. Once he even lived with a disassembled Ferrari engine on his dining table for months. Now that’s devotion.
Still, Sosnowitz makes room for other projects. More than two years ago, he met Judy Martin, founder of Stamford’s all-volunteer Starfish Connection, which pairs grown-ups with Stamford schoolchildren for mentoring and enrichment. It requires volunteers to commit to mentoring one child until he or she graduates from high school. Through the program, Sosnowitz met Marcos Martinez, a fifth grader at K.T. Murphy, with whom he has shared the finer points of judging car shows.
Since meeting Sosnowitz, Marcos has already learned plenty. During the recent Concours d’Elegance, while Sosnowitz looked on, Marcos judged a 1965 Sunbeam Tiger, a 1932 Stutz and a 2006 Ford GT, among other cars. He considered the qualities of their styling, their electrical systems, engines and paint jobs. Marcos knew what to look for. “You have to look really closely,” he says, “because when you see a car from far away, it looks new,but when you look closely, you might see some scratches and bumps.”
“He’s a tough little judge,” says Sosnowitz with evident pride. “He’s been by my side judging four different shows.” At the Concours, Marcos also participated in
a training program for junior judges to hone his skills.
Marcos, an earnest ten-year-old, and the oldest of four to Juan Martinez and Gloria Jimenez, values the time he spends with Sosnowitz. “Mentors help you learn more stuff and have fun,” he says. It is precisely what the mission behind the Starfish Connection mandates: for the two to spend time together to help Marcos navigate a world broader than what he has known, and guide him as he discovers skills through shared activities and afterschool programs. Specifically, Sosnowitz.