Gabriel (Gabe) Martinez, project aide and peer navigator at the University of Arizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, was appointed to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) by President Joe Biden. At the Sonoran Center, Martinez helps young people and adults with disabilities become self-advocates in all aspects of life. He will serve a two-year term on the committee.
“I’m excited about this opportunity because I can help many more kids and adults with intellectual disabilities,” Martinez said. “If they don’t have a voice, I’m a voice for them.”
The Sonoran Center is part of the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Family and Community Medicine. It works closely with university, state and local disability agencies and community groups to ensure people with developmental and intellectual disabilities have the support they need to fully participate in their communities. Martinez graduated in 2016 from the Sonoran Center’s Project SEARCH, an employment preparation program for people with disabilities. He joined the center’s staff in 2020.
As a project aide and peer navigator, Martinez supports numerous projects at the Sonoran Center. He is a coordinator of a Native youth focused transition and employment program called Finds Their Way: Communities for Youth Transition. He supports the Transition AHEAD Roundtable, a comprehensive youth-to-adult transition program, and represents the Sonoran Center on the Association of University Centers on Disabilities’ Council on Leadership in Advocacy.
Martinez also is a regular speaker and trainer for webinars, course guest lectures, high school classroom presentations and medical student education at the College of Medicine – Tucson. Outside of the Sonoran Center, Martinez serves on the leadership group with Self-Advocacy Solutions.
“My favorite part of my job is being in meetings because I get to meet new people and I can share what I’m doing at the Sonoran Center with them to make them think about their futures. I learn from others with disabilities,” Martinez said.
The PCPID was established in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It consists of 21 citizen members appointed by the president and 13 federal government members. Its mission is to “provide advice and assistance to the President of the U.S. and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on a broad range of topics that impact people with intellectual disabilities as well as the field of intellectual disabilities,” the PCPID website states. “The foundation of this mission is a goal to improve the quality of life experienced by people with intellectual disabilities by upholding their full citizenship rights, independence, self-determination and lifelong participation in their communities.”
Martinez was nominated by Wendy Parent-Johnson, PhD, executive director of the Sonoran Center. “Gabe is passionate about disability issues and a strong advocate for others,” Dr. Parent-Johnson said. “In the time I’ve known him, he has grown to become a knowledgeable and experienced professional who will certainly offer valuable contributions that will benefit so many individuals.”
Asked about what he hopes to accomplish with the committee over the next two years, Martinez said, “I want to help the president to support kids to find different jobs in the U.S. At my job, we go through a process to get trainings for them and develop skills and compare their skills to a job. A lot of people don’t have this opportunity, so I want to make them understand they have an opportunity. And I tell them ‘Don’t give up, explore and find new things.’ I help change how kids think about jobs.”