21 February, 2024 9:47 AM

Meet Mitzy Martinez, Casa Corazón’s New Program Director

If any of you have brought your little ones to any of Casa Corazón’s many parent-child activities, family nights, or parent trainings, very likely you’ve met Mitzy Martinez. She is well known for her deep engagement, knowledge and parent-organizing abilities. So, when previous Casa Corazón Program Director Brenda Quintero left IFR to join San Francisco’s Department of Early Childhood, selecting Mitzy Martinez to assume this role was a no-brainer. After all, Mitzy’s personal and professional history, trajectory, and achievements captivated us, making her stand out as the perfect person for this role.

Mitzy Martinez portraitTo properly understand Mitzy's work, you have to know a little about her background. Mitzy was born and raised in the Mission District to parents who emigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s. Her love for her culture and identity as a Latina stem from traditions she has been exposed to throughout her life, from the delicious tacos al pastor originating from Puebla, where her mother was born, to the lively carnival-like festival of Los Charros, where participants dress up and compete as music bands for the top spot.

Growing up in the City during a difficult period for the Latino community, Mitzy’s family faced poverty, domestic violence, and the separation of her parents. As a result, Mitzy had to find a job at the age of 17 and halt her academic goals. Despite these challenges, Mitzy began to flourish during this early period of her life with IFR. 

"I am very grateful to IFR because I needed a safe place, away from problems and violence, and I found it here," Mitzy tells us.

Mitzy began working as a Program Assistant at Casa Corazón and eventually became a Family Resources Specialist, which opened up new opportunities for her. One of her proudest achievements was her contribution to creating the Super Heroes program. Super-Heroes is a socio-emotional support group designed for children aged 5-6 years old who are facing challenges such as domestic violence, homelessness, separation from their parents, anxiety, depression, or intervention by child protective services. Super Heroes helps children heal from their traumas and prepare to face the challenges of growing up. Adding this evidence-based program was a valuable contribution to Casa Corazón’s array of services; this intervention has been extremely successful, in large part due to Mitzy. 

"I feel so connected to Super Heroes because I also faced those challenges. I know what it feels like, even as a child, to feel a responsibility to protect our loved ones from violence, even if it means getting hurt," Mitzy adds. Bringing her lived experience and firsthand understanding of what Super-Heroes children face has contributed to its powerful healing impact. 

Part of the role of the Program Director of Casa Corazón is also to manage the Mission Family Resource Center, a collaboration of four organizations, including IFR. One of the biggest challenges Mitzy sees from her new vantage point is how to support Latino families who face increasingly complex situations when resources are becoming scarcer and harder to access. “Many families attending our programs are homeless, without a permanent place to stay, and some are even living on the streets. Casa Corazón has become a second home for many families,” Mitzy explains.

Mitzy realizes the work ahead of her is enormous, but her goal is to strengthen the Mission Family Resource Center. One item already in the planning stage is to hold an event called Fiesta Latina during the week of the young child. This will be the first time the Mission Family Resource Center has organized this event; if it is successful,  they hope it serves as a community outreach opportunity. 

Mitzy Martinez speaking in public at IFR Olling Giving Event

Mitzy's greatest aspiration is for Casa Corazón to transform into a comprehensive center for families with expanded groups such as their Concilio de Compadres, which assists parents seeking to become leaders in their community. She admits to becoming increasingly motivated when she sees parents empowering themselves and working towards creating a better future for their children. She also works at remaining open-minded, exploring ideas that may have been overlooked before but are critical to safeguarding Latino families.

In her personal life, Mitzy clearly qualifies as a Super-Woman. In addition to taking on this significant Program Director role, Mitzy is a mother, wife, and entrepreneur. She is currently working towards obtaining a degree in Public Health Nursing, something she had to set aside when she was young and had to support her family. Mitzy’s natural leadership also inspires her to develop her own skills as a community leader who can represent her community in decision-making spaces to advocate for increased investments in our children.

As a young supervisor, Mitzy encourages her team to share their ideas and concerns. She recognizes that life experiences can help create solutions that genuinely work. Her belief in herself, her team, partner organizations, and families is evident in her approach. Under Mitzy’s leadership, our families and children are in good hands. We have full confidence that under her leadership, Casa Corazón will continue to successfully address the needs of families and children. Congratulations, Mitzy!

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