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East Palo Alto Leader to Serve as 2016 Commencement Speaker


Cañada College is pleased to announce Laura Martinez as Commencement Speaker for its 48th annual ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 10 a.m. 

Raised in East Palo Alto, Laura has spent more than a decade working with East Palo Alto youth (and their families) and is keenly aware of the community concerns that still need support. In fact, her passion to educate youth on the importance of preparing for college, career readiness and participating in extracurricular activities was a driving force behind her desire to become a leader in her community.

In 2008, Laura became the first Latina council member to serve the City of East Palo Alto.  In 2011, at the age of 27, she was elected the youngest serving, and first Latina mayor, in East Palo Alto’s history. While she served as city council member and mayor, Laura worked to successfully balance the city’s budget without layoffs, prioritized the economic development plan and promoted health and recreation by supporting the city’s first open space park. She also worked to bring a full-service grocery store to East Palo Alto, helped to improve safety through building more sidewalks to schools and supported a gang dismantling operation reducing overall crime by 15 percent. In addition, she was selected by Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal as one of the “Top 100 Women of Influence” in 2012 and “40 Under 40” in 2015. Laura was appointed to the Sequoia Union High School District and served as a Trustee from March-December 2015. In addition, she is an Expanded Learning Director at Aspire Public Schools, supporting students and families at East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy. She serves on the board of East Palo Alto Police Activities League.

“As the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college,” noted Interim President Jennifer Hughes, “our graduates and their families will undoubtedly find inspiration in Laura’s story.” Laura received a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with a minor in Spanish, from Whittier College. She currently resides in East Palo Alto.


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