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Member & Activist Spotlight

'That has been the theme for my work – connections'

Martin Jenkins is a Community Liaison in Phoenix, Arizona
Martin Jenkins Moses Mitchell
Published: November 10, 2022

I have deep roots in my community and in various efforts to improve the lives of the people who live here. I also have a family that supports the important work unions do for our schools. Those community and union connections provide the foundation for the work I do now that is so important to me.

My great-grandfather was an electrical engineer but worked tirelessly on issues related to access to health care and other services. He founded an organization largely to help the growing Hispanic population here, and one of my earliest memories is about helping my father and uncle bring boxes of food to those who did not have the resources.

Other family members have been active in organizations and informal groups that provide community support, and several through the Phoenix United School District. My aunt, mother and sister all are employed by local schools.

So, it was natural for me to want to work in my district and find a career where I could help others and support our schools, where I am the campus community liaison.

I help students with issues that inhibit their ability to come to school and learn – from providing a winter coat to guiding them to a place to stay. I often work with the students who are homeless or whose families are teetering on being without a place to live. I connect them with resources that can help.

I find this work fulfilling in the same way I find satisfaction in my work with the union. I now am a site representative for my school – and that work also grows from family connections. My sister is president of my local, the Classified Employee Association.

Involvement is another way to be part of a community – to work and support others.

I feel there is sometimes a negative connotation to union participation or a suggestion that it involves having to pay dues regardless of whether you support the union’s mission. But the opposite is true. You are paying a small sum to have the union’s support – and to be part of this community whose members bring about important change.

The union is a family that connects people who work as colleagues – but it brings them together outside of the job where they can get to interact in a different, important way.

In my role, I have strived to provide support for the emergency fund that has benefited our members who really need it – again with the support of a community. I’ve worked to improve professional development at all levels and want to be a voice for the members in my building.

I also focus on building membership. I want to bring in educators so they will more often feel valued and supported in the way the union has made me feel. I know I have a voice and these connections are so valuable.

And that has been the theme for my work – connections. Making connections for my students who need them, helping colleagues through the connection the union creates and finding meaningful ones myself.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.