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By Charles Curtis III | AC JosepH Media Guest Blogger
CAMDEN – "Everyone has a part in making their community a better place. We should use our experience and talents to improve our community. Everything we do adds up." -- Falio Leyba-Martinez
These are the encouraging words of Camden native Falio Leyba-Martinez. Leyba-Martinez is a family man, twice elected school board member, business owner, and the man responsible for the resurgence of Little League Baseball in the form of the East Camden Little League.
As we look into Leyba-Martinez's upbringing, we can see that his quote about balancing your talent and personal experiences for the betterment of your community directly correlates his current activities.
While still in his early childhood Leyba-Martinez and his family relocated from North Jersey to Camden, where they settled in the Centerville section. His parents purchased a modest grocery store residing in the same section of the city in which they lived -- Leyba Grocery.
And 25 years later since its inception, Leyba Grocery is still active and has become a staple of the community, Leyba-Martinez himself now managing the store's daily operations.
As he grew into adulthood, his love for Camden would also grow. His years interacting with his community at his family store would fuel his passion for improving the conditions of the people he served daily.
This would be reflected in his education choice as he would go earn his associates in urban studies with a minor in criminal justice. Soon after, Leyba-Martinez would continue his studies at Rowan University where he majored in urban studies.
"My father would have me work in the store and let me play baseball during the season," Leyba-Martinez told Front Runner New Jersey.com.
He remembered how after moving from North Jersey, baseball helped him connect with his peers in his new environment. In 2019, Leyba-Martinez's connection to the city would only deepen as he himself would begin a Little League in East Camden, where he now lives. Starting with only 11 players, one being his son, membership of the league has since skyrocketed to 125 players and a number of volunteer coaches.
In recent years he ran for election for Camden’s school board and won -twice. Leyba-Martinez initial win came in 2019, while his most recent victory would take place in this past 2021 election.
Leyba-Martinez has utilized his school board position to highlight the educational disparity in Hispanic communities and has championed to bridge the gap between Spanish-speaking communities and the educational system.
Leyba-Martinez has been at the forefront of a number of progressive resolutions. For example, Camden is the first district in New Jersey to simul-cast their school board meetings, providing an option for Spanish speaking families to be included in the conversation.
Leyba-Martinez was also at the forefront of the Safe Zone Resolution, which prohibits the sharing of immigrant student information to the federal law enforcement agency ICE. Continuing his mission to improve the lives of students, he would advocate strongly for IMM Schools.
IMM Schools is a West Coast partner, connecting immigrant families to nonprofits to strengthen services and provide access to higher education through grant and scholarship opportunities.
Leyba-Martinez is a man who embodies passion, motivation and strong communication skills. These traits have shaped him into a pillar of his community, an example of a highly qualified and empathetic leader utilizing his talents to greatly enhance the lives of countless individuals in the city of Camden.
Leyba-Martinez's encouraging statement is a true reflection of his own life. He diligently serves his community and has worked tirelessly towards the upliftment of his city in a myriad of ways. As he continues to enrich all those around him it becomes clear that Leyba-Martinez is a leader to follow.
BIO: Charles Curtis, III is a Camden native, small business owner, poet and writer. Recently, Charles has utilized media to engage with the community updating the city on local news as well as connecting them to art and entertainment events happening locally.
QUESTION: What can community leaders learn from Falio Leyba-Martinez's example in the community? Answer in the Discussion Section below.
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