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Michelle Martinez

Michele Martinez is named one of Orange County United Way's 2008 Hispanic Influentials. Photo by Mimi Ko Cruz

Titan Recognized for Community Efforts

Student Michele Martinez, a Santa Ana City Councilmember, is Honored as Emerging Latina

February 11, 2008

By Mimi Ko Cruz

Criminal justice major Michele Martinez, a Santa Ana City councilmember, has received Orange County United Way’s 2008 Hispanic Influentials award.

“It’s truly an honor to receive this recognition,” Martinez said at the Feb. 2 fundraising awards dinner in Irvine. “Orange County United Way is bridging the gap concerning the inequalities of the Latino community …. We want to empower others in this community. That’s what the American dream is all about.”

Martinez, who was recognized as an “Emerging Latina of the Year” in 2007 by the National Latina Business Women Association, was elected to the Santa Ana City Council in 2006. She chairs the city’s Parks, Recreation, Education and Youth Council Committee and serves as a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana.

She works as the human resources education foundation director at ConquistAmerica, a mortgage lender headquartered in Santa Ana.

In addition to feting Martinez, the Orange County United Way also awarded Martha Jimenez, a supervisor of children at Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach, and Dr. Gwyn Parry of Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, with Hispanic Influential honors.

The organization also bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on the late Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez. Their children were banned from attending an all-white segregated school in Westminster in 1943, so they filed a lawsuit that they won three years later. Orange County schools were desegregated as a result of their efforts.

The awards dinner proceeds benefit Orange County United Way’s programs that help Latino families. The need is great, United Way officials said.

According to the organization, nearly one in four Orange County Latino families don’t earn enough to make ends meet. In addition, the high school dropout rate of Latinos is 59.1 percent — double the dropout rate of white high school students — in the county.

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