Roxanne Martinez: "A voice for our children"
Roxanne Martinez walked with her community’s youth one afternoon in an organized “March to the Polls.” About 40 high school seniors participated in the march and were given the opportunity to vote in the 2018 midterm elections. As one of the students left the voting booth, he told Roxanne he didn’t recognize any names on the ballot and asked, “Why wasn’t your name on the ballot?” This student’s simple inquiry started Roxanne’s personal path to the race for a position on Fort Worth ISD’s School Board.
“When I say my decision to run was led by students themselves, I mean it,” Roxanne said when reflecting on that “March to the Polls” experience. She sees a lot of herself in the students in her community that she continually serves, particularly because she herself grew up in the same north Fort Worth community of Diamond Hill. She went to Fort Worth ISD schools and graduated at the top of her class from Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School in 1998. As such, she is aware of the challenges that students living in her community are now facing. After attending college out-of-state in Florida as a first-generation college student, she returned to Fort Worth to build her family, her marketing business, and her community advocacy through a non-profit organization geared towards helping youth. She’s become a pillar in her community through her efforts to improve the lives of children.
Roxanne’s first experience in Fort Worth politics came when she was running a sports program through her non-profit organization. The program was struggling to operate in the evenings because the city parks in her area did not have functioning lights. “But I was driving around wealthier parts of town in the evenings, and I was seeing lights turned on in their parks,” she said. After months of attempts to reach the city to fix the lights, Roxanne was finally driven to reach out to a city councilmember to address the problem. “We kept getting the same response—that we couldn’t rent the park space at night because the lights weren’t working,” she said. “Finally, I went to the city council because… Really, I was just trying to find a place for children in our neighborhood to play.” Those efforts were successful, and her city councilmember continued helping Roxanne with various projects in the future.
Armed with her newfound knowledge of how to navigate city services and advocate for her neighborhood, Roxanne continued in her community work—she participated in Texas’s Leadership ISD (a program that helps community leaders create thriving public schools) and volunteered on campaigns. These experiences formed her vision and platform for her campaign for Fort Worth ISD’s School Board.
“Even before COVID-19, only 35% of our students were meeting grade-level expectations,” Roxanne said of Fort Worth ISD’s current performance. In addition, over 80% of Fort Worth ISD students are economically disadvantaged and nearly 90% of the district’s students are students of color—leading to continued disparities in achievement for students of color and economically disadvantaged students. “This has been going on for years, and it’s time for change.” Roxanne plans to implement evidence-based plans and strategies that support students and get all kids on track. After looking at the data for the schools located in her district—District 9— she noticed some trends among the higher rated schools. Roxanne detailed these: “There's really strong leadership, a strong principal. There’s quality teachers, lower turnover, so we retain high quality teachers. There's high parent and community engagement in those schools.” Roxanne’s plan is to measure this success and replicate the patterns that lead to that success in the lower performing Fort Worth ISD schools. The bottom line? “Every child deserves a quality education.”
While Roxanne’s campaign experience has added an extra layer of chaos to her family life, her husband and two children have been at her side, actively involved in community outreach. “I think that running for office as a woman and mother comes with its challenges that male candidates may not face,” Roxanne said while reflecting on her race. “I do feel like I was discouraged from running, and I doubt my two male opponents were. There’s a lot of strikes against me—not just because I’m a woman and a mother, but also because I’m a woman of color.” Despite the challenges of having many roles in her life to balance, her campaign has seen success. In fact, Roxanne was endorsed by Fort Worth’s #1 local news provider, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I know why I’m doing this,” she said, “And I won’t be discouraged.”
For women who want to run, but maybe don’t understand the nuts and bolts of running a political campaign, Roxanne recommends reaching out to other women who have been through the process, shadowing current political leaders, and utilizing the ample resources that are available online to help, such as She Should Run. Finally, Roxanne has valuable advice to give to women who are considering taking the leap to run for an office: “If you care about your community, and you have a passion to serve, and you want to make a difference—then you're qualified to run. You are qualified and you are worthy.”