Next Up Columbus 2023: Perla Martinez

Perla Martinez
Perla Martinez

Photo courtesy of Perla Martinez

Interview by Derek Grosso

Name: Perla Martinez
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Age: 36
Profession: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Administrator at Franklin County Board of Commissioners
Neighborhood: Powell
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in English Language with a minor in Translation & Interpretation; Master’s Degree in Education
Community Involvement: New American Leadership Academy 2023 Cohort for the City of Columbus
Quote: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we’ve lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela
Connect: LinkedIn

Give us a snapshot of your path
I was born and raised in Mexico and I have been in the United States for 11 years. Before arriving to the country, I taught English as a Second Language to elementary aged kids in rural Mexico. Ever since arriving in Columbus I found myself in positions where my ability to speak another language and a shared immigrant experience helped me connect with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Before my current role, I served as the Language Interpreter Coordinator for the Domestic and Juvenile Court of Franklin County where I was responsible for the creation of a comprehensive language services program necessary to provide access to justice to individuals who were LEP (Limited-English proficiency) and the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. It was in this role that I realized that there is a lack of representation of Columbus’ New American and Disabled communities inside the institutions that serve us, it is because of this that I decided to take a chance on an opportunity that presented itself within the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, in the diversity, equity, justice and inclusion space, where I currently lead the County Futures initiative, a comprehensive workforce development program that focuses on implementing diversity recruitment, training, and retention efforts within Franklin County Board of Commissioners’ agencies through community engagement and collaboration.

What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
My wife, my kids and my dogs. The life I have built for myself in this country. No day is the same at my current role, so the curiosity and excitement of what the day may bring. My team at work plays an instrumental part of getting through the week, we are a small but mighty office, who support one another and have each other’s backs. And the knowing that while the work is hard, it is good work.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
My mother, who has always loved me in the freest of ways. My current supervisor, Damika Withers, has shown me what good leadership is supposed to be, and always provides me with advice and guidance that I value dearly. My wife who is my sounding board day in and day out.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
I enjoy taking my dogs for a walk, or for a swim, it really helps me clear my mind.
Spending time with friends, sharing a meal and good conversation.

What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
I really enjoy the “hole in the wall” ethnic restaurants in Central Ohio. Those hidden gems that you only find through word of mouth or if you go out and explore the region. Some that come to mind are: El Jaliciense, Bangkok, Yemeni Restaurant, Riziki Swahili Grill, amongst others.

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I thought I would work at the United Nations HQ in New York. The idea of meeting people from all over the world seemed so exciting to me as a child. Funny enough, while I didn’t end up at the UN, I did get my wish of working for, and with, people from different parts of the world.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
Reading: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
Podcast: The Daily, Everything Happens with Kate Bowler, The Deck.

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
It is such an honor for me to have been picked for this award. Representation matters and I want immigrants and New Americans to know that they can exist in spaces that maybe were not created for us initially, but we are here now and we matter, our work matters, our dreams matter. I am excited to become that example for other young, up and coming, Latine residents of Central Ohio.

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
Its residents. The people who wake up everyday and make Columbus the great city that it is.

The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2023 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Ohio Dominican University and Quantum Health for their support of this year’s awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2023” »



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