She's 30 years old, she's on the East Palo Alto City Council, and she's twice been mayor. And now Laura Martinez, the after-school program director and college-center coordinator for Aspire Public Schools and a graduate of Palo Alto High School, is a member of the governing board of the Sequoia Union High School District.
In a unanimous vote and after five candidate interviews, the board appointed Martinez on the first vote on Wednesday, March 11, at the district office in Redwood City. Martinez, the first member of her family to graduate from college, will serve the nine months remaining in the term of longtime member Olivia Martinez, who retired earlier this month.
During the board's discussion after the interviews, member Carrie Du Bois expressed her preference for candidate Georgia Jack of Redwood City on the grounds that the city contributes a plurality of the district's students but had no representation on the board, but Du Bois voted with the majority.
Board President Allen Weiner summed up his decision before calling for a vote.
"When we talk about how to move kids up, trying to make kids believe who come from families where nobody has ever gone to college, to persuade them college is an option for you, that you can succeed in high school, that you can succeed in college, when we're having discussions about how we're going to do that, I think our discussions will be enriched by somebody who comes from that background themselves," Weiner said.
Martinez said she was thrilled with the appointment and would be resigning her position on the City Council.
A key priority as a Sequoia board member is ensuring that there are a variety of extracurricular activities so that students can learn about who they really are and what they want to do, Martinez said, adding that she believes that every student should be encouraged to go to college, but understands if a student wants something else.
"I think it's our job to support them if they choose that, to provide options so that they can find their passion so they can be successful," she said.
The strengths she brings to the board, she said, are her ability to collaborate, her listening skills, and her experiences as mayor -- knowing how to manage a meeting and keep everyone focused.
The other candidates, in addition to Jack, who is an associate director of stewardship at Stanford University's Office of Development, were Ellen Mouchawar, an Atherton attorney (inactive) and active volunteer in the Ravenswood City Elementary School District; Jay Siegel, a former member of the Las Lomitas Elementary School District board; and Isaiah Vi, an information technology analyst and a former member of the JobTrain board of directors.