Brenda Martinez and Latinoforce at Greenleaf TK – 8 School
By Lamont Hill
Salesforce’s investment supports Oakland Unified School District (OUSD): STEM programs, mental health and newcomer wellness initiatives, educator recruitment, retention, and professional learning, principal innovation, and a city-wide public school volunteer program. In addition to funding, Salesforce provides both hundreds of hours of volunteer time to classrooms and Salesforce’s own state-of-the-art technology for the benefit of the student learning. Since the start of the partnership with Oakland during the 2016-17 school year, Salesforce has been committed to volunteerism. Elevating the impact of the Principal Innovation Fund, Salesforce has adopted 12 middle schools to make a positive impact on school culture and student achievement through relevant, engaging volunteer events.
Brenda Martinez, Education Initiatives Program Manager, is the leader behind volunteer engagement and is the driving force ensuring the twelve middle schools are heavily supported; she even leads the partnership between Greenleaf TK – 8 School and Latinoforce. We had the opportunity to sit down with her and highlight her volunteer experiences. Greenleaf TK – 8 School was matched with employee volunteers from Latinoforce, Salesforce’s Latinx Employee Resource Group, to connect students with more opportunities to see themselves reflected in future career opportunities. Greenleaf’s student population identifies at 83% Latinx, and therefore, this partnership has been able to highlight how much Representation Matters. Latinoforce volunteers support students with career exploration and Brenda explains that,“In many cases you don’t believe what you don’t see. It’s important for students to see someone who looks like them in many different positions, especially from a huge company like Salesforce.”
- A cornerstone of career exploration is the annual field trip to the Salesforce tower. During this event, Brenda and her team prioritize college admissions and career development. For example, this year students enjoyed 3D printing where they were able to create their own keychains. This experience offered a lesson on how to be developers and innovators in the tech sector. Next, students took part in a brainstorming session around how 3D printing could benefit their community. Students left for the day feeling confident that they’re able to pursue a career in the tech sector and were encouraged to set goals around their education and career paths.
- One of Brenda’s favorite volunteer events is the annual Latinx Read-In, hosted every October. The event stands out to Brenda because it gives Latinoforce a chance to support literacy and celebrate representation at Greenleaf. Mariah Sparks, the amazing Librarian, makes the impactful event possible: “She always creates a welcoming environment for volunteers with snacks and an orientation for the read-in. She’s been very thoughtful about the impact the read-ins have for teachers and for students and she always chooses books that are culturally relevant and have even allowed for teachers to make a special request as part of the experience. Mariah goes above and beyond to ensure that everyone’s needs are met: teachers, students, and volunteers.”
Being a part of the Adopt an Oakland School program for the past few years, Brenda emphasizes the importance of being intentional and mindful about why you’re volunteering and the impact you have. “It helps to be a great listener to really understand where you can add value by taking a beginner’s mind approach to see how you can bridge the gap with added value. Being culturally competent is also very important as well when we are working with an underrepresented community and understanding your own biases. It’s important to acknowledge that your volunteering experience may be different from what you are used to.” Brenda’s biggest reward from this partnership is the impact that she has on young people. She highlights that it’s not about changing who students are but expanding their knowledge and mindset to know there are endless possibilities available to them.