Trailblazing Leader Patricia Martinez to Receive 2023 Wheeler Community Spirit Award

January 26, 2023

Photo of Patricia Martinez outside as she smiles at the camera.
Patricia Martinez

The Wheeler School is pleased to announce that Patricia Martinez, a dynamic community leader with a distinguished record of public service that has spanned both government and the nonprofit sector, will be this year’s recipient of the Wheeler Community Spirit Award.

Throughout her career, Martinez, who is currently the Chief of Equity & Empowerment Officer for the Central Falls School District, has been a practitioner and advocate for social justice. In a range of roles, her work has focused on community organizing, promoting positive youth development, family engagement, and building partnerships with community and faith-based organizations and educational systems to ensure the delivery of services to low-income families.

Before she joined the Central Falls School District, she was the Director of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, becoming the first Latina to be confirmed by the Rhode Island Senate for a Cabinet-level position. Prior to that appointment, Martinez served as the Director of Community Relations for Governor Don Carcieri, a role in which she was responsible for engaging Rhode Island citizens with state government.

In addition to her public-sector leadership, Martinez has a long history of working in the non-profit sector. She served for 12 years as the executive director of Progreso Latino, where she led the organization in becoming one of the most respected multi-service immigrant organizations in the state and broadened its services to other non-Latino immigrant groups.

“Patricia Martinez is an ideal recipient for the Wheeler Community Spirit Award,” says Head of School Allison Gaines Pell P’23, P’25. “Whether working in government, education, or nonprofit organizations, she has always ensured that the voices of children and families are heard. Her dedication to building bridges and empowering communities is an inspiration, and we look forward to celebrating her meaningful impact together.”

Each year since 2004, the Wheeler Community Spirit Award has recognized a person in the Providence community who advocates for those with fewer opportunities. They are selected based on their efforts in four key areas: passion for equity and social justice, both locally and globally; appreciation for and promotion of the benefits of education; commitment to creating opportunities in the community for those who otherwise might not have a voice or an advocate; and resilience in the face of challenge and adversity.

“I am humble, and when I learned about the award, I was speechless,” Martinez says. “I am grateful to receive this honor from such a highly respected institution where diversity is valued, and curiosity and individuality is encouraged–all basic elements for a perfect formula that will yield progress and prosperity in a more just society and in our community.”

We invite you to read more about Patricia Martinez in this profile that Patricia Andreu P’26 wrote for The Providence Journal.

Martinez will receive the Wheeler Community Spirit Award during a Feb. 17 ceremony on Wheeler’s Providence campus. Those who would like to attend should fill out this RSVP form. The event is sponsored by the Upper School’s Students Involved in Cultural Awareness club, the Office of Unity & Diversity, and the Wheeler School Parents Association.

Previous Community Spirit Award Recipients

2022: Omar Bah, Founder and former Executive Director of the Refugee Dream Center, Inc.
2021: Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)
2020: Dr. Arun Singh, Cardiologist
2019: Jeffrey Osborne, Musician and Philanthropist
2018: Rose Weaver, Musician, Actress, and Activist
2017: Dan B. Miller, Former Head of School at Wheeler
2016: Patrice Wood, News Anchor and Adoption Advocate
2015: Joseph Le, Former Executive Director of Providence-based Center for Southeast Asians
2014: Richard Rose, Assistant US Attorney
2013: Angelo Garcia, Founder and Head of School, Segue Institute for Learning
2012: Mamie Catlin, Founder of Camp Street Community Ministries
2011: Teny Gross, Executive Director, RI Institute for the Study and Practice of Non-Violence
2010: G. Gail Davis, Educator and Coach, Rhode Island College Student-Athlete Center
2009: Jim Vincent, Manager of Constituent Relations, RI Housing
2008: Len Cabral, Master Storyteller
2007: Armeather Gibbs, Chief Operating Officer, United Way of Rhode Island
2006: Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, Healthcare Leader and Community Activist
2005: Rob DeBlois, Educator and Founder, Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program
2004: Edward C. Clifton, RI Superior Court Judge

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