Roxana Ortiz '23

Student Spotlight

Roxana Ortiz

With the amount of craziness going on in the world right now, it’s my responsibility as a community member to go out there and put good in the world.

When devastating wildfires hit her hometown Santa Cruz, California, in late August, Roxana Ortiz ’23 wanted to help. The fires came within 15 miles of the Ortiz’s home, and while 2020 hasn’t been easy for the family, Roxana felt that they should do something to contribute. “With the amount of craziness going on in the world right now,” she says, “it’s my responsibility as a community member to go out there and put good in the world.”

Her brother, Leonardo Ortiz ’20, took to social media to fundraise, and together with their younger sister Natalia, went shopping for supplies. After spending the day dropping off donations at evacuation centers around the city, they still felt like there was more they could do.

Donation bags in the backseat of a car

Around the same time, images were surfacing on social media of local farm workers who were being exposed to smoke and extremely poor air quality. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve risked their health by continuing to work with minimal precautions. When the fires hit, local organizations began asking for donations of food and school supplies. Roxana and her siblings went shopping again, but this time for notebooks, crayons, food, and other necessities. They filled 30 bags and drove out to the fields to distribute donations as farm workers headed home for the day.

Roxana is also passionate about education and soccer. She’s a member of the Soka women’s soccer team, and for the past four summers has been volunteering as a coach in the Santa Cruz area. This summer, she also volunteered as a data analyzer for Santa Cruz County’s Office of Education. She interpreted data from local school districts to better understand what mental health resources are available and what can be done to improve them. She credits her mom, who has been a public school Spanish teacher for more than 20 years, as her biggest inspiration when it comes to her interest in education and community involvement.

Last year, she took a Soka class on the psychology of education, which helped her better understand the role of education in US society. “The beauty of Soka is understanding that everything is interconnected,” she says. “Even if you’re studying something very specific, you have to remember to look at the bigger picture. This is a very tough time, and I know not everyone is able to give back, but it’s important to put good in the world and do what we can.”

—by Nagisa Smalheiser ‘21