WACO, Texas — Among the inspirational women in Central Texas, a Waco police officer is inspiring the young women in her community through outreach and leading by example.
March 8 is known as International Women's Day and recognizes the accomplishments they've had around the world.
Waco Police Department Officer Sophie Martinez inspires many young girls every day through her community outreach work. She knew at an early age she was destined to work in law enforcement.
"I remember a DPS trooper coming to my school and talking to us, kind of like what I do now, and I was just so in awe of his uniform, his cowboy hat and everything," she told 25 News. "He has no idea that just his presence alone made such an impact on a little 8-year-old."
She is now making an impact herself through her work with the Waco Police Explorer Post, a group that works with 14 to 21-year-olds interested in working with law enforcement. Many of her former explorers went on to join the military or law enforcement after hearing her inspiring stories.
"After all this time, I'm still in touch with a whole bunch of those kids," Officer Martinez said. "If this program helps these kids in the careers they have chosen, it's so worth it."
Martinez grew up on the US-Mexico border in El Paso where being Hispanic wasn't uncommon, but as she started her career she realized she had quite a few barriers to tackle.
"As I moved up the ranks, as I promoted to sergeant then staff sergeant, I would have the males, especially the white males, tell me 'oh you'll get promoted before me' and I'm like 'why do you say that?', it's like 'because you're a Hispanic female' and that always, I guess it got under my skin."
Due to assumptions about her ethnicity and gender, Martinez always felt she had to work much harder than those around her.
"Being a small female, you've got to prove yourself," she said. "You're female, then being short and skinny doesn't help. You really got to show your male counterparts that you're capable of keeping up with them if not going a little further. I had a chip on my shoulder pretty much, I had to prove myself."
Through the years she found what was holding her back, actually helped her earn the trust of the community
"When I would go on a call and all the could speak was Spanish, especially like a female victim of domestic violence, being female helped them a little bit," Martinez said. "Then when I started speaking to them, it would help them open up about what happened."
She now serves as an inspiration to many other women who hope to follow in her footsteps and offers them all the same advice:
"Carry yourself with pride. Never stop being a lady. You can be tough out there on the street, get into fights, do whatever needs to be done to take care of that call, be there for your male partners and jump into the fight when you have to, but carry yourself as a lady at all times."