We are thrilled to announce the newest member of our team.

Alej Martinez is the new program coordinator for community engagement and education activities for the ARISE project. He will play a key role in helping this statewide initiative create Adaptive and Resilient Infrastructures driven by Social Equity in Kansas.

In this new position, Alej will help build partnerships between academic researchers and residents in five Kansas counties. Alej will also assist with planning and organizing a summer program for undergraduate students to gain research experiences and professional skills.

“I am excited to imagine the possibilities of ARISE,” said Alej. “This project aligns with my values, academic interest, and lived experiences rooted in community building.”

As described below, Alej brings extensive experience in community engagement to the role, with notable appointments as the Safe and Welcoming Field Organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, Executive Director at the Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance, and more recently as Community Engagement Coordinator for the Red Willow Center in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico.

“Resilience and justice should be at the forefront of all our community engagement, and this position allows me to focus on building strong relationships with extraordinary champions of equity,” said Alej. “At this time more than ever, it is critical to understand how we can make Kansas infrastructure more resilient for a better tomorrow.”

Contact Alej at alej@ku.edu and 785-864-9041.

Alej Martinez hugs 8 foot tall sunflower

Learn more about Alej Martinez

Alej (pronounced ah-léh-hé) Martinez (any pronouns) is a community organizer, a dedicated leader, poet, and land steward residing in the Kansas City metro area. Alej was born in Veracruz, Mexico and migrated north at age 14. He is a first-generation college student, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sustainable Food Systems from Prescott College in 2023 with a Freedom Education Scholarship that covered 100% of tuition. Alej is a graduate of the DREAM Lead Institute – a year-round, intensive leadership program from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Trinity University, exclusively for young DACA professionals selected for their outstanding contributions to their communities, organizations, and sectors.

Alej has ample community engagement experience in multiple sectors, including public health, grassroots, nonprofit, and education. Alej’s expertise fosters collaboration among diverse stakeholders, ensuring that collective efforts result in inclusive and sustainable solutions for all. Examples of this deep commitment to social justice include his work with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, the Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance, and more recently at Red Willow Center in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. Alej has served on many boards including Oral Health Kansas, the Mid American Regional Council Community Health Worker Executive Board, Latino Writers Collective, and Scholarships A-Z.

As a writer and poet, Alej braids together lived experience with social issues to create relevant works about the intersection of systems, consciousness, and our collective shared humanity. He was an artist in residence for 18 months at Charlotte Street Foundation in 2018 with funding for the program provided by a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant. Some of Alej’s work has appeared in Harbor Review, Hawai’i Review, About a Place Journal, and Immigrant Made Zine Vo. II. He published their first book Disclosure: Confessions of a Queer in Crisis in April 2018; followed by Concealment though Resistencia Press in October 2021, and a Yeah no in 2023.

Alej is a son, an uncle, a sibling, and he enjoys building community resilience though food and art. They love to stare at sunsets, gardening, and give the land the same love it gives to them.