Student Leaders Series: Karla Martinez gives back to her community

Karla Martinez, 16, won the Young Lady of the Year Award for Riverside County District 4 in April 2015. Martinez has been a student reporter for Coachella Unincorporated for two years. Photo: Amber Amaya / Coachella Unincorporated
Karla Martinez, 16, won the Young Lady of the Year Award for Riverside County District 4 in April 2015. Martinez has been a student reporter with Coachella Unincorporated for two years. Photo: Amber Amaya / Coachella Unincorporated

JOHNNY FLORES/ Coachella Uninc.

A few years ago Karla Martinez didn’t think a young person like her could ever make a difference in her community.

But after getting involved with local organizations, Martinez’ opinion on this was reversed. She has devoted almost every spare minute of her time to bettering her community.

“To me, serving is a way of thanking your for community everything it has done and provided for you,” Martinez said.

Martinez, 16, is currently a junior at Nova Academy in Coachella. She has been a regular contributor to Coachella Unincorporated for two years, where she has written numerous articles and reflections on issue ranging from community violence to voter registration.

This past year, she became especially involved with her community because NOVA Academy requires students to complete community service projects in order to graduate.

Martinez decided to volunteer at the Esperanza Youth and Family Center. It was there that she joined the Environmental Youth Alliance and forged a passion for community service, and found out about the Land Use Planning Awareness (LUPA) project.

Because of her involvement in the LUPA project, where she assessed affordable housing in Coachella, Martinez was nominated to win the Young Lady of the Year Award for Riverside County District 4.

The award is given to one young woman in each district in Riverside County. The recipient has to be dedicated to improving the lives of young women and families within Riverside County. On April 14, Martinez, along with several other young women from the county, will be presented with the award at the Robert T. Anderson County Administration Center in Riverside.

Through the LUPA project, Martinez worked to help low-income families by advocating for quality affordable housing in the Valley. Through her continued work with Coachella Unincorporated, Martinez was able to write articles that shed light on improving the quality of life for residents in the east valley.

For Martinez, the award is something more than just another item to add to her college resume.

“The award gave me a further boost to do what I do, [which is] working with the youth and being involved with activities that benefit the community,” she said. “I never expected anything in return for the work that I do, but actually receiving the award was a great blessing.”

As Martinez finishes her junior year, the prospect of college and future goals loom ahead. She hopes to attend a four-year university, where she hopes to study urban planning and political science. This plan was greatly influenced by her involvement in the LUPA project.

“I want to give back to my community, and also better the lives of individuals and the future to come,” she said.

But for now, Martinez hopes to continue doing what she loves and inspiring others to do the same.

“To inspire others is to set an example,” she explained. “I want other youth to see me and then other candidates who won the award as an inspiration be active and change any injustices they have seen in their community. Find something you’re passionate about and pursue your dreams. There are no obstacles the youth can’t overcome because we have the voice to make a change.”

 To view stories Martinez has produced as a student reporter, visit her author page on the Coachella Unincorporated website.

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