Preferred Gender Pronouns: she, her, hers
Maria began her activism over twenty years ago as a high school student living along the U.S./Mexico border during a time when state legislation was proposed that criminalized immigrant families and youth. This hostile environment resulted in Maria and her fellow Latino schoolmates being removed from their schools. Despite the discrimination she faced, she completed her studies and later earned degrees from UC Berkeley and Harvard University. The experience taught her the importance of lifting up her voice through collective action to ensure disadvantaged students have access to a quality education.
Maria has organized for educational justice through various campaigns and initiatives. Since 2002, as a leader of InnerCity Struggle, she has spearheaded an expansion of the influence of students and community residents in decision-making about L.A.'s public schools, mobilizing thousands of Latino parents and students.
Maria's work with InnerCity Struggle has resulted in a wide range of improvements within Eastside schools as well as schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District. In the last few years, Maria's leadership has helped win several breakthrough victories; new schools for the Eastside, a district-wide policy focused on preparing all students for college, increased funds for schools, smaller learning environments in Eastside high schools and an expansion of school-based health services. After years of demanding that all students be prepared for college, the tide is changing. Graduations rates in the Eastside are rising and more students are informed about what is needed to succeed.
Maria was recognized as a Grassroots Leader to Watch by the Liberty Hill Foundation and has received various other leadership awards, including from the newspaper La Opinion, UC Berkeley’s Chicano/Latino Alumni Association of Southern California and the Latina Lawyers Association. Maria serves on the Community Advisory Board for the leading Spanish-language publication La Opinion. In 2015, she was appointed as a Commissioner for the Commission for Children and Families by County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. In 2018, Maria was recognized with the Woman of the Year Award, by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women. She is also a proud mom of two young children that attend an LAUSD school.