Interview with Giuliana Martinez

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After graduating from The Organizing and Leadership Academy in 2014, Giuliana was hired as program coordinator for ‘Healthy Hearts SF’ in the San Francisco Department of Public Health. As part of the TOLA 6 class, Giuliana worked on the successful Berkeley vs Big Soda campaign, the first successful effort to tax the distributors of sugary sweetened beverages in the United States. Prior to coming to TOLA, she worked as a case manager at Marin Child Care Council, a non-profit where she worked with low-income families in Marin. Giuliana graduated from San Jose State University in 2012 with a BA in Sociology/Criminology and a minor in Justice Studies.

Q:  What inspires you and how do you motivate others?

A:  My parents inspire me. Both my parents and I are Peruvian immigrants. Since coming to the U.S. I have seen them work multiple jobs and long hours every day; struggle with the English language; and adapt to the American culture — in order to give me a better life than the one they had in Peru.  Through all their hard work and willingness to overcome challenges, they managed to achieve many goals, including giving me the opportunity to pursue higher education. For everything they have done for me, I am eternally grateful. Just as my parents did for me, I try to motivate others by being a good role model, and sharing with them the passion I have for my work and my positive outlook.

Q:  What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your experience in TOLA?

A:  As a TOLA fellow the most valuable lesson learned was the importance of communicating effectively and speaking up. During my time at TOLA I worked on the Berkeley vs. Big Soda Campaign. This particular project consisted of diverse community leaders coming together for one cause – to improve the health of Berkeley residents. My role  was to organize and lead City Council District 8. To be successful, I learned how to communicate effectively with eight teammates and hundreds of community volunteers every day.

I came into the fellowship knowing that I wanted to improve my public speaking skills. TOLA definitely challenged me to get out of my comfort zone by providing numerous opportunities to speak publicly and to develop a more assertive voice. I learned that in order to be a successful leader advocating for change, speaking up was crucial.

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Q:  What’s the most difficult lesson you’ve learned in your work?

A:  Understanding what self-care means to me and the importance of it. Initially my routine consisted of going to the gym every day after work, but because of the new demands of work and a longer commute, I had to adapt to a new routine. I stopped being so set in my ways and included two new activities: meditation and journal writing. These two new activities, in addition to exercise helped me find a balance between my personal and professional life.

Q:  What impact would you like to have on the world?

A:  In my current position, I am advocating for people to be more physically active, especially in San Francisco communities where many families are living below the poverty line. My work has exposed me to the health disparities that many families face in San Francisco due to the lack of cost efficient and culturally relevant resources, such as healthy restaurants, grocery stores, gyms, and fitness classes. As a coordinator for Healthy Hearts SF, I am working to decrease the disparities by creating free physical activity opportunities that are culturally relevant and tailored to both African Americans and Latinos. This experience has inspired me to create greater awareness around the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, especially in the Latino community. Someday, I’d like to have my own program to help the Latino community (and other low income families) lead healthier lives through exercise, diet, and spirituality.