First published in The Channels on November 16, 2020.
When Luz Reyes-Martín was in third grade she remembers being afraid. It wasn’t the typical fears such as bullies on the playground or not getting gold stars in the classroom.
An 8-year-old Reyes-Martín had much bigger fears. She worried people didn’t like the color of her skin because of a proposition targeting undocumented immigrants.
“Even though we weren’t undocumented we knew it wasn’t about being undocumented, it was about brown people,” she said. “This community that I love doesn’t want us here.”
Proposition 187 made undocumented immigrants in California ineligible for public services and required public employees to report suspected undocumented people to law enforcement.“
I saw these decisions that are made that really impact people and their families,” she said. “It really informed my views on justice.”
For Reyes-Martín, this experience helped catapult that 8-year-old little girl into one of the South Coast’s most influential and prominent figures. Reyes-Martín has worked as City College’s Executive Director of Public Relations and Communications for nearly five years.
She’s also a member of the Goleta Union School Board and President of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee and a rising star of the county democratic party.
A few years ago when the marketing and communications offices merged, she helped build the new office of communications “from the ground up.”
Reyes-Martín enjoyed her job at the city of Goleta, but former Superintendent-President Lori Gaskin’s love for the college was so “infectious” she couldn’t turn down the job offer.“It was a big risk,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about community colleges.”
Her scope is wide.She manages City College’s advertising, communications and social media, among other matters related to the college. If somebody has a question about City College, they have to go through Reyes-Martín.She also strives to be an active member of the community.
As an elected board member for the Goleta Union School District, she draws on the experience she had immigrating to the U.S. at 3 years old and struggling to learn English.“
I was really dropped into a class where I didn’t understand much of what the teacher was saying or what my classmates were saying,” she said.
English-learners make up about a third of students in the district she serves.“I know the support that those families need,” she said. “I hope I’m an advocate for them.”
In addition to supporting English learners, Reyes-Martín works to empower women as the president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.
She started volunteering with the group as a way to engage with local activists when she first moved to the area. She was eventually asked to join the board.“
It was really the place where I found community first,” she said.The committee’s focus is to “advance a feminist agenda” by training and supporting local politicians with feminist and progressive values.
Reyes-Martín’s two children understand the sacrifices she has to make. “It’s time away from my kids and my family so If I didn’t think it was worth it, I wouldn’t do it,” she said. “My kids know that if mama’s not here, she’s out helping someone.”
The culmination of the work she does at City College happens during the commencement ceremony.“I feel like I’m part of the fabric of the college,” she said.
While she may not be as visible as some of the teachers on campus, she believes she is an important part of students’ academic journeys.“
I truly believe in the mission of the college,” she said. “That goes a long way.”