Unsung Santa Cruz: Ruby Marquez inspires others with her perseverance over privilege

Woman at Computer
(Riley Ramos)

Ruby Marquez, the chief assistant county counsel, is an exemplary hero who embodies qualities such as tenacity, courage and a strong sense of justice. Raised in a Latino community, Ruby overcame obstacles and pursued a career in law to give back to underrepresented communities. Despite facing adversity in a white-male-dominated field, Ruby remains motivated by supporting Santa Cruz County employees and striving to provide adequate resources for marginalized groups. Her selfless advocacy and determination make her a true hero in our community.

Editor’s note: Lookout’s high school journalism challenge invited students to write a profile of a local unsung hero who is making a positive difference in our community, inspired by our popular “Unsung Santa Cruz” series. Our editing team read and reviewed the submissions, publishing the top ten stories. The top three authors are awarded a $500 scholarship.

In typical hero-centered story fashion, there are qualities of these endless fables that enthrall us to root for the hero in the first place. Some note bravery is a key characteristic for a solid hero story. Others might argue that a strong sense of morals are a required hero trait. In the search for a local unsung hero, attorneys, specifically those representing our county, were the first thing that came to mind, soundly meshing tenacity, courage and an obligation to defend the morals of the beautiful community of Santa Cruz we are all fortunate to call home. However, beyond these qualities, the true compelling nature of a hero is the journey they have endured to achieve their position of success. I had the opportunity to interview one of the most successful in-demand lawyers today and, most important, someone who perfectly embodies the traits mentioned above. This person is none other than the brilliant chief assistant county counsel, Ruby Marquez.

Raised in a Latino community in San Jose by a single mom, Ruby was inspired to give back and pursue a career in law. Ruby has quite the résumé: graduating from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and receiving a law degree from UC Davis. Regardless of obstacles, including an industry with few job opportunities during the height of recession, Ruby continued to immerse herself in the law-related field, educating children about said topics. Even with these commendable credentials, Ruby continues to approach life with the utmost humility and the persistence to give back. One of the programs she most fondly remembers participating in was Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY). “I loved working with FLY!” she said. “FLY works for juvenile justice youth. I oversaw the law-related education programs and we would talk about learning life skills and learning about their legal rights, trying to build pro social skills that would help them exit the juvenile justice system. It was awesome!” she smiled. The impact of Ruby’s accomplishments does not go unnoticed by her peers. When asked about Ruby’s demeanor at work, Assistant County Counsel Ryan Thompson praises her approachable, non-intimidating persona, despite being a leader with impressive credentials. He also recounted her hard-working personality: “We gave Ruby a round of applause for taking two days off!”

People like Ruby are the antidote to a plethora of communities that go underrepresented; however, her pursuit of being an attorney does not come without its challenges. When asked about the difficulty of facing adversity in a white-male dominated field, she said, “Sometimes when I go to court, people ask if I need an interpreter or if I am the interpreter. Nobody ever assumes that I am a lawyer, even if I am dressed like one!” Nevertheless, Ruby refuses to give up, consistently researching, completing necessary work, and even courageously asking for help when she needs to.

So how does Ruby stay motivated?

Support plays an important role in this. She supports various county employees, whether it’s those working for elections or human services, aiming to better the lives of our community, and is motivated by their efforts. “I love helping them, when they are helping other people,” Ruby said. The disparity in our world is a feature Ruby hopes to fix one day: “I want to help a lot of our communities to get adequate resources. Whether it’s making sure families get food they need, or building AFFORDABLE housing for folks.”

Heroes like Ruby are important to highlight in our media. Ruby proves that it is not only possible to conquer challenges, like injustice, but also to selflessly advocate for groups who need/deserve the resources to lead a fulfilled life.