This is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award, which seeks to highlight and celebrate people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. The winner will be named at an event on April 11. Meet the other finalists.
Name: Ambar Martinez
Profession: Executive assistant to the chief diversity and equity officer, Everett Community College
A turning point for Ambar Martinez came when she was hired to teach Spanish at Washington State University in Pullman, where she was pursuing a master’s degree in foreign languages and cultures.
Years before, when Martinez arrived in the United States as a teenager, she’d been advised to put aside her native language, Spanish, and focus on learning English.
In doing so, Martinez also felt as if she were being prodded to set aside her culture and heritage.
Now, years later, she was teaching Spanish and telling students —study, study, study, so they could master a second language and get a better-paying job.
Those two very different messages — unlearn Spanish, learn Spanish — seemed inconsistent and unnecessary.
“We tell students not to speak Spanish, but then tell other students to learn Spanish,” Martinez said.
“Why can’t you have both?” she wondered.
Ever since, Martinez has been trying to bring disparate ideas, people and institutions together.
Together is stronger.
As her grandparents told her, “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” — united people will never be defeated.
When she became executive assistant to the chief diversity and equity officer at Everett Community College five years ago, she saw an opportunity to “bridge the conversation between the higher levels of education and the grassroots efforts among the community.”
As a first-generation college student, she understands the need for students to feel “celebrated for who they are” from the minute they arrive on campus.
“How do we create a system that upholds and uplifts all the beautiful things that students come with? Students who come here are already awesome,” Martinez said.
A lot of the work she does at EvCC is “getting small projects moving,” she said.
That includes recruitment — reaching out to students, and students of color in particular.
That’s one side of it, the other is recruiting for diversity among the college’s faculty and staff.
“I think we are in a key time in our college in terms of really being able to transform ourselves into an organization that is equitable and compassionate,” Martinez said.
“I believe in the possibility of a better world and that we all, from our different perspectives and passions, have to creatively and collaboratively reach for it. As I look into the future, I understand that it takes all of us to uphold oppression, and all of us to undo it,” she said.
Martinez also is involved in Connect Casino Road, NAACP, the EvCC Foundation Scholarship for Undocumented, Black and/or LGBTQ students and the Parent Leadership Training Institute at EvCC.
Said a nominator: “Ambar is doing wonderful things around diversity, equity and inclusion at EvCC and beyond. She is the voice of Snohomish County’s future.”
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods