Meet Jerry Martinez

Meet Jerry Martinez

Jerry and his parents stand in front of a football field.

Jerry and his parents at a Washington State University football game during “Dad’s Weekend.”

Jerry Martinez hadn’t planned on coming back to the Tri-Cities so soon. Momentum was on his side having just graduated from Washington State University as a M.E.Ch.A (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán) and student government leader and coming off a finance internship at Boeing.

He says where he’s from, success for young people too often looked like leaving your community. There is an unspoken understanding that to find a career, you have to take your skills and passions elsewhere. Jerry was heading that way—with a business degree in one hand and a corporate job offer in the other—when the pandemic hit. His graduation ceremony was cancelled, an anti-climactic end for the first-generation college graduate. The job offer was rescinded. He moved back home. Suddenly, like so many others, he had to reevaluate what mattered most to him.

It only took a few months for Jerry to figure it out. He landed a job as an emergency relief organizer with the United Farm Workers Foundation, providing direct aid like cash cards, masks, and sanitizer. Although community had always been important to him, Jerry connected with the people who shaped his upbringing in a different way, reestablishing a commitment to a place he was born and raised. Through conversations with farmworkers across the region, he developed a deeper appreciation for the work his parents did. And, it was starting to show up at home in unexpected ways.

“My parents were so proud of me,” says Jerry. “My dad has been working in the fields since he came to this country. My mom, at Tyson. They realized, ‘My son’s going to work at an organization that supports people like me.’ For them, it was full circle: I went to college. I could do anything I wanted with that and I chose to give back to my community. A sign that I was on the right track was that my parents fully understood and were proud of the work I was doing.”

Jerry recently joined Group Health Foundation as a program associate on the grantmaking team, and hopes his parents will continue to be proud of the work he does here. “I’m early in my career so I may not have an expansive network, but what I do have is pride for the Tri-Cities. I share the mindset people have here. I understand their pain and frustration,” says Jerry. “But, the biggest thing for me is showing up and letting them know I’m here and that I’m from here.”

Jerry will be based out of our Tri-Cities office when it opens later this year. His role includes a range of relationship management, research, team coordination, and administrative activities. He looks forward to remaining active in his community, staying close to his parents and siblings, and mentoring his younger cousins—all in the place he knows best. “I’m the first in my family to go away for school,” says Jerry. “But, I don’t want to be the first to move for good.”