King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 awarded Mauricio Ayon Rodríguez of Kent with the Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service, an award that recognizes individuals whose work has answered the question asked by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “What are you doing for others?

“Mauricio has been a beloved fixture in South King County, working as a true community organizer to expand educational and economic opportunities for Latino immigrants and other marginalized communities,” said Upthegrove.

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the youngest of eight siblings, Rodríguez first learned about community work from his mother, who was a nurse. He moved to the U.S. in 1990, when he was 20 years old, where he undertook an education in photography at the East Los Angeles Community College and later trained with the Industrial Areas Foundation in community organizing. He found his way to South King County not long after and began what has turned into a lifelong commitment to building and strengthening the Latino community.

His work has included community engagement, relationship management and leadership development efforts with Highline Schools; engaging community and building relationships with organizations, especially Latino media outlets and helping start off-campus ESL classes at Highline College; and advocacy work around racial equity, healthcare, clean energy and climate as part of Washington CAN!.

Outside of professional efforts, Mauricio has been hard at work in community volunteer roles as well. He cofounded Para Los Niños, a community-based organization with the mission to support the education of Latino children, with a focus on early childhood development, maintaining and promoting their culture and language, and to teaching English as a second language in order to develop leadership and civic engagement for parents in the community.

Ayon is also a founding board member of Casa Latina, an organization to advance the power of Seattle’s Latino immigrants through educational and economic opportunities.

“Mauricio has a huge heart and a servant’s spirit. Everyone who knows him loves him because his kindness and care for others is so genuine,” said Upthegrove. “He has used his organizing skills to improve the lives of so many people and to change our region and community for the better. I am proud to call him a mentor and friend.”

He currently lives in Kent and is the father of three children: Alejandra, Magdalena, and Mauricio Jr.

This marks the eighth year that councilmembers have each selected someone from their district whose work embodies the spirit of King’s question.

Scott Schaefer

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