There’s a good chance that if you tell Luz Reyes-Martín no, she’ll prove you wrong.
Reyes-Martín, who was born in Mexico, moved with her family to the city of Downey in Los Angeles with her family at the age of 3. By the time she was in high school, she sought every AP honors class she could take, though her high school counselor discouraged her, telling her she wouldn’t be successful despite her high grades. Reyes-Martín nonetheless persisted on, earning high grades.
This continued throughout high school, and although Reyes-Martín dreamed of going to a four-year university, her counselor pushed her not to apply, refusing to write a letter of recommendation for her Stanford application because she thought it was a waste of time. But Reyes-Martín was accepted into Stanford — and that’s exactly where she went. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science and Chicano/a studies.
This was just one example in the beginning of her trek to the top. Reyes-Martín, who first moved to Goleta in 2013, has already played many roles in the community. She’s now taking a bold step away from one of those roles — her almost six years working as the executive director of public affairs and communications at Santa Barbara City College — and is stepping into being the vice president of community engagement at Planned Parenthood Central Coast, a job that has more influence across three counties.
“I think it’s a huge loss to the college that Luz is going,” said Dr. Pamela Ralston, executive vice president of educational programs at SBCC. “But I think that she can do anything she puts her mind to, and I hope she goes on to do not only local, but even state-level work.”
Reyes-Martín not only has played an instrumental role at SBCC but also has served as a Goleta Union school boardmember since 2014 — currently the president — in addition to being the president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.
Despite her current status in the community, Reyes-Martín has not forgotten how she was once treated when she was canvassing the streets of Goleta a few years ago.
When she ran for Goleta Union school board, there were several instances when she went door to door to talk to voters that she was mistaken as a housekeeper or as someone who couldn’t speak English because she was Mexican.
“In some of my early difficulties running for the board, I had to overcome these types of assumptions and get people to take me seriously,” Reyes-Martín recalled. “I hope I have improved that here locally for the next Latina or young person of color and paved the way.”
Over her two terms on the school board, Reyes-Martín has been described by other members as someone who “works tirelessly on equity and inclusion” and is very hands-on, frequently going out into the community to “do her homework” before making a board decision.
“One of the things I’m most proud of working on with Luz is when we started our dual immersion program at El Camino,” said boardmember Sholeh Jahangir. “She was such a champion for the fact that being bilingual is an asset and that our school district has the opportunity to really rise and bring a program for us that would not only celebrate diversity and language skills, but also help bring our English-language learners along and a more powerful and impactful way.”
Reyes-Martín’s impact on equity extends to her other role as president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee (WPC). Dr. Charlotte Gullap-Moore, an adult nurse practitioner who serves on the SBWPC, said that Reyes-Martín created an environment where everyone of all backgrounds could contribute.
“I will say that prior to Luz, I was given a seat at the table. With the WPC under her administration, there was actually space created for me,” Gullap-Moore said. “You can have a seat at the table, but do they give you space to actually implement sustainable and impactful actions? Luz created that space.”
What’s even more impressive, Gullap-Moore said, is Reyes-Martín’s continued desire to learn and promote equity. She heard Reyes-Martín give a speech and use the term “people of color.” Gullap-Moore asked her to expand that to intentionally list Black and Indigenous people of color because the term “people of color” historically refers to only Black people and not Latinos.
“I remember the next time she gave a speech, she included Black people and Indigenous people of color in her speech. That just gave me goose pimples all over,” she said. “She is serving during a time where you can be more intentional in addressing what others were either too afraid or complacently chose not to address.”
In addition to equity, Reyes-Martín has also shown a commitment to understanding civic planning. She obtained both her Master of Public Administration and her Master of Planning degrees from the University of Southern California. She landed a summer internship at Downey’s Planning and Economic Development Department and fell in love with understanding the way zoning codes work, looking at plans, and learning the history of Downey.
She did work in planning in Pasadena before moving to Goleta and even served on the Goleta Planning Commission for a short time. However, Reyes-Martín’s next journey will see her influence grow into a role of providing women’s health and education.
“Planned Parenthood is an opportunity to get to work with another outstanding team and an incredible leader, Jenna Tosh,” Reyes-Martín said, “to be able to grow professionally for myself, to be able to work on both education and public affairs and the electoral work of the action fund across three counties. So to be able to be a part of that is an opportunity that I am really excited about.”
Every day, the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent works hard to sort out truth from rumor and keep you informed of what’s happening across the entire Santa Barbara community. Now there’s a way to directly enable these efforts. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.