We take great pride in presenting Silicon Valley Latino Collegiate Cultura Ambassador Maria Pina-Carrasco. A true example of hard work and determination until reaching her goals and success!
Growing up in an environment where Maria’s father would tell her to speak English outside the home and only Spanish at home, was confusing and it made her feet lost trying to figure out her identity.
Maria went to Washington elementary school, where the majority of the population looked like her. Maria can still remember hating ESL classes and thinking how pointless they were. Today she embraces her dual cultures, Mexican and American. Thankfully Maria listened to her father mainly out of respect, and now she can speak, read, and write in Spanish. Although at times she encounters difficulties with accents, she is proud to say that she can help more latin@s. Maria has always been an outgoing and happy child, but growing up she also realized the financial hardships her parents faced, especially her mother. Maria’s mother worked real hard to keep a roof over their head, have food on the table and raise Maria, her two sisters and two brothers on a tight budget. Maria now knows that five kids weren’t easy for her mother, but her mother has always demonstrated strength and perseverance.
Although Maria started to embrace her cultures as a child, as a teenager she found herself encountering different challenges. By senior year of high school, Maria was six and a half months pregnant with her son and graduating. Maria was going to CCOC to study to become a medical assistant, and was eager to meet professionals in the medical field and find a job. To her surprise, it will also mark one of the toughest journeys for her. She was not prepared to have her teacher from CCOC tell her privately that she was disappointed in her. That Maria would end up like her parents on welfare and that she could still give her unborn child for adoption. When she told her mother what happened at school, she replied with another surprise comment, “Maybe she saw something in you, and she did not mean any harm.” Maria kept battling internally with the way her teacher treated her and how her mother couldn’t see that her teacher was in the wrong. Maria’s mother has always been strong at so many things, but she was always afraid to advocate for herself, and did little to stand up for her kids. Maria felt alone, knew it was wrong, and recognized that she needed to express to her teacher how she felt. Long story short, Maria found her voice and her passion, to not ever let a teacher or anyone look at her different because she was another “teen mom” statistic. Maria wanted more for her unborn baby and she was not going to be afraid to advocate for herself, for her baby, and for others.
Even though Maria’s high school time was a new challenge and the CCOC experience was not a positive one, she realized that it was time to conquer a different fear, to go to college and give teachers a chance. Maria didn’t believe that she was smart enough and she thought it was impossible because a little of that negative experience lingered in her mindset.
By her mid twenties, Maria faced more challenges. Maria tried to attend Evergreen Valley College (EVC), but she did not feel the need to get a higher education because her number one priority was to earn a wage to raise her son. Soon after enrolling at EVC, she quit and focused on working full time for the City of San Jose, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services (PRNS). However, it was not until Maria was pregnant with her second son and the City experienced economic downfall. While some employees got their pink slip, others were transitioned to other departments or roles, and Maria’s hours were now strictly to 1,140. Maria gave birth in May of 2005, and that very summer was laid off because she went over 1,140 hours. Maria for the first time experienced unemployment and faced the reality that a high school diploma was not enough education to support her two children and herself. A higher education was beyond needed, and she was determined to accomplish any obstacle in order to succeed and have a brighter future.
Maria felt blessed as many people entered her life, at the very right time. They were able to motivate her to return to EVC and helped with the entire community college experience. From the beginning, Maria asked for help, was involved in different organizations and clubs on campus, and eventually stepped out of her comfort zone.
Some of the clubs/organizations Maria was a member of were: ENLACE Honors Society, ENLACE Student Association, Honors Institute, Phi Theta Kappa, International Honors Society, EOP&S, CalWorks, and many more. Some of her accomplishment at EVC: Maria was the MC for two years for the ENLACE honors society, MC for the ENLACE student association cinco de mayo event, and she helped her student body government with club rush, promoting special events and informing students about their power to vote. Maria experienced many successes, and her last year at EVC was pregnant with her youngest son. Maria’s perseverance and determination to attain a higher degree was still her goal, she walked the stage Spring 2013 and graduated Summer 2013 with a GPA of 3.7 and with honors. However, the GPA didn’t define her, it was her believing in herself, working very hard, and surrounding herself with supportive people. Maria accomplished her A.A. in business administration and transferred to San Jose State University Fall 2013.
From Fall 2013 to Spring 2016, Maria still had other challenges but as her past record to overcome them, she did full of optimism and faith. On May 24, 2016 Maria walked the 2016 EOP Spring Graduation Ceremony. Her three sons, Damian who is 14, James who is 11 and Armani who is 3, her mother Maria, and many other friends and family, surrounded her. Maria will officially graduate this summer with a B.S. in business, concentration in marketing. She is extremely eager to see what more challenges await, and what her future will bring.
Maria’s achievements at SJSU winning a $2,000 AAUW-San Jose local college scholarship, both in Spring 2014 and Spring 2015. Since then AAUW members sponsored her membership and today she is blessed and honored to pay it forward. Maria has volunteered at the AAUW holiday boutique fundraiser event, where proceeds go towards the local college scholarship. This year she translated an entire PowerPoint presentation from English to Spanish and was a panel speaker for the AAUW-Strong Girls, Strong Women Conference. Maria is passionate in empowering others for them to recognize their potential. Maria wants to be that person that planted a seed in someone’s mind and heart and tapped into their own ability to conquer fears, stereotypes and negative people. She looks forward as a member in helping AAUW with their numerous organizations in ways that she can to make a positive difference.
Maria is a warrior! She continues to fight for what is fair and right. She is also a very spiritual person, who always prays and believes in something bigger than her. Faith has kept her focus and positive. Maria is a proud first generation Latina, mother of three, oldest sister of five and daughter to a strong and empowering Mexican mother. Maybe it took her a while to learn why her mother viewed things differently, but she has come to realize that no matter what, her mother fought for her and her four siblings in her own way. Her mother and children continue to motivate her.
Other things she looks forward to are obtaining a full time marketing position in a tech, corporate, or a growing small business. Maria is looking to expand her professional development skills. Maria wants to grow in a company and find a place that she can call her extended home and family.