Raul Marquez (Courtesy photo)

As a senior at McKay High School, Raul Marquez was deeply involved in Salem, serving on the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley board and as student body president while interning at the state legislature.

Now a freshman at Willamette University, Marquez seeks a seat on the Salem-Keizer School Board to represent zone two in northeast Salem, where schools are the most crowded and diverse in the district.

Marquez, said the district is long overdue for a Latino representative.

“We don’t have the representation we need at the school board level,” he said. “It’s hard to feel like you’re represented as a parent and a student when you don’t see anyone else who looks like you up there.”

Marquez is running against incumbent Marty Heyen, who's seeking a second term on the board.

As a recent graduate, Marquez said his experiences as a McKay student would be an asset to other board members and enable him to do more outreach with families he represents. Many aren’t aware of what’s going on at the board level, he said, or don’t know how to share their thoughts and concerns with board members.

His biggest priorities are working with the state to ensure the district has adequate funding and looking at how to distribute resources more equitably among Salem-Keizer schools, he said.

Marquez recalled seeing such inequity while playing trombone at McKay. He said he saw how hard students there worked to fundraise for the program and support private lessons for students who couldn’t afford them. But because the school serves mostly low-income families, those efforts never yielded as much money as students at the district’s wealthier high schools were able to raise.

“That leads into what the schools are able to provide to our students,” he said.

He said the school board’s decision last fall not to take a position against Measure 105 was one example of why Latino representation matters. The measure, which failed at the ballot box, would have allowed state and local law enforcement agencies to use their resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Critics said it would lead to racial profiling and heighten fear of law enforcement among Latino families.

Marquez said the board’s lack of action was “rather devastating” and left many families feeling unsupported.

The 19-year-old does have experience in politics. He’s continuing to intern for Rep. Diego Hernandez, a Portland Democrat, in the legislature this session and spent the summer in Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office in Washington D.C.

On the United Way board, Marquez took the lead in fundraising for Taylor’s House, a shelter for homeless young people that opened late last year.

He’s also organized community blood drives and served as a student liaison for the North Lancaster Neighborhood Association.

Marquez said he understands voters may have reservations about his age, but he thinks he brings a different perspective than parents of current students.

“I have perspectives that we don’t have on the board that will be a useful tool for the board moving forward,” he said.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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