The Redondo Beach Unified School District broke with tradition Wednesday night at its annual State of Education event when it named not one, but two education advocates of the year.
Recipients Terry Martinez and Gentil Smith both graduated from Redondo Union High School in 1971, according to district officials. Since then, each has helped the district in a different way.
"(Receiving the award together) could not have happened to two greater people," said RBUSD superintendent Dr. Steven Keller.
Martinez, who grew up in Hermosa Beach and taught in RBUSD for 12 years, is the official RUHS archivist—the "go-to person" for historical information about the school.
"I got into the school's history before I was a wife or a mother or a grandmother or a schoolteacher," Martinez told those assembled after accepting the award.
As the archivist, she has tracked down photos of parents who attended the high school in the '50s, and even helped reunite an adopted woman with her birth family after some detective work. Martinez's only clues? The last name of the woman's father and the knowledge that he attended RUHS.
"We do a lot of really heavily sentimental work for people," she said. "There's a human element and then there's a cultural element … It's terrific work. I really enjoy it."
Smith, on the other hand, has helped the district through the Redondo Beach Educational Foundation, of which she was a founding member. She served more than 10 years on the RBEF board.
"Once (RBEF) got off the ground, I think I was hooked for life as being an advocate for the school district," Smith said.
The former Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year was also the first contributor to the RUHS Legacy scholarship for seniors, as well as a member of the board of directors for the RUHS alumni association.
In her acceptance speech, Smith encouraged parents to "get involved."
"You'll never, ever regret it," she said.
To ensure the two friends would both attend the State of Education event, Martinez was told that Smith would receive the award, while Smith was told Martinez was receiving it, according to RUHS principal Dr. Nicole Wesley.
Martinez and Smith also received commendations from state Sen. Ted Lieu and Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.
The recipient of the education advocate of the year award is chosen by the Redondo Beach Partners in Education.