Samantha Ramirez is San Rafael’s “citizen of the year”

Samantha Ramirez, a champion of the Latino community and coordinator of the Marin County Youth Commission, has been recognized as San Rafael’s “citizen of the year.”

Ramirez, 32, was honored for her work to create a more equitable environment for students and build a relationship between the Latino community and local government. The San Rafael City Council presented her with the honor at its meeting on May 2.

Ramirez said she was unaware she was selected for the award, and that a friend had invited her to the council meeting to talk about her volunteerism.

“It was overwhelming to feel that I really mean something to the community,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez has family from El Salvador and Honduras. She was raised in San Rafael and grew up in the Pilgrim Park Apartments, a Section 8 complex.

Ramirez said there is a lot of stigma around Section 8. She said she wants people to know that “part of my identity is growing up as a renter in affordable housing.”

Ramirez said she feels honored to be recognized, but that she is part of a movement of people color in Marin.

“I’m a product of my community and this is a win for all of us,” she said. “It’s a reflection that our generation is doing great things.”

Ramirez attended Terra Linda High School and graduated from San Rafael High School. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in social work from San Francisco State University.

She was an after-school program coordinator at Venetia Valley School for four years and led a weekly after-school program for newcomer immigrant students at Davidson Middle School for two years.

As coordinator of the youth commission, a group of 23 young people who work with the Board of Supervisors, Ramirez has increased the number of students of color in the group to better represent the Marin community.

In 2020, Ramirez helped organize students who wanted to participate in Black Lives Matter rallies. She also helps Spanish speakers obtain housing.

Wendy Pacheco, a supervisor at the Youth Leadership Institute, which leads the youth commission, said Ramirez is there for youths.

“They’ll be texting her or calling her late at night, early in the morning, whenever, and she picks up,” Pacheco said. “That’s the value she brings to the community, and it’s because she know what it’s like to struggle and grow up a person of color in Marin.”

Ramirez volunteers on the Youth and Family Council at the Marin Promise Partnership, an education nonprofit. She supported the Marin “community fridges” project to help feed those in need during the pandemic and advocated for eliminating school resource officers from San Rafael schools.

Mayor Kate Colin said she got to know Ramirez on the 2020 campaign trail. Colin was running for mayor and Ramirez was seeking a seat on the San Rafael Board of Education.

Ramirez was not elected, but Colin said she recognized her as a role model, especially for Latino youths in San Rafael.

“I was really struck by her passion and commitment to youth in the community,” Colin said. “She brings her own personal lived experience and works so hard to elevate youth voices and getting young people engaged. I look forward to continuing to work with her on issues that affect our community and continue to bring in the youth voices in a meaningful way.”

source: marin independent journal.

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