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Dean’s Award ’22 – SSIS: Chrissy Martinez went home and found her activist voice during the pandemic

Honored scholar Chrissy Martinez says she wants to "speak for those who cannot speak for themselves." (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

When concerns about the rapidly spreading coronavirus suddenly shuttered Sac State classrooms in March 2020, Chrissy Martinez felt defeated. She wondered if returning to her hometown of Tracy and studying remotely would disrupt the momentum she was establishing on campus.

Instead, her commitment to education and public service grew.

In Tracy, Martinez discovered her voice for people in need, organizing a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest and speaking about equity and inclusion. She brought that passion to her Sac State studies, her outside activities, and to the State Hornet student newspaper, where she began writing about the pandemic’s impact on the campus community, particularly people of color.

“I realized that if I worked at it, I could actually influence people and have an impact.” - Chrissy Martinez

Martinez, an honors student who will graduate in May with a degree in Political Science and Journalism, is the recipient of the 2022 Dean’s Award in the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The awards are given each year at Commencement to one student from each of Sac State’s seven academic colleges.

Martinez’s nominators, led by Political Science Professor James Rae, praised her “remarkable academic achievements” and advocacy work, writing, “We are confident Chrissy will have a substantial impact on the local and national community.”

Martinez earned a 3.96 GPA at Sac State and membership in the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society, and she has been selected to be the SSIS student Commencement speaker on May 21.

She has participated in various clubs and organizations, including College Democrats, Diverse Women in Political Science, and the Society for Professional Journalists. She received multiple awards for her work at the Hornet, including Best News Staffer and Most Dedicated Journalist.

“My mottos are ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,’ and ‘think globally, act locally,’ ” said Martinez, whose parents taught her about labor leader and activist Cesar Chavez. Activism “is kind of in my blood,” she said.

She chose Sac State in part because she could pursue a double major in Political Science and Journalism.

“I wanted to learn more about politics, and I wanted to explore it from all sides,” she said. She also “fell in love with the campus and the people,” she said. “Everyone was so kind and helpful.”

When the pandemic forced the campus into remote learning in early 2020, “I was scared,” she said.

“I was building myself up at Sac State, and now I’m home without a lot to do.” But George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, lit a fire inside of her.

“I felt that it would be wrong if I didn’t use my voice to speak out,” Martinez said.

She organized a protest that drew more than 1,000 people who marched through Tracy demanding justice. The event sparked a conversation between city leaders and voters, and resulted in the creation of a Youth Advisory Committee and an Equity and Empowerment Initiative.

The effects of her efforts “brought me to tears,” Martinez said. “I realized that if I worked at it, I could actually influence people and have an impact.”

Martinez is contemplating a future that might include a run for public office, a news reporting job, or an internship with an elected official. She said she would like to work in Tracy, where she first felt the satisfaction of uplifting others.

“I love my city, and my goal is to help create equity there,” she said.

2022 Deans' Awards

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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