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María Aguilar — Cultivated in Alisal



Collage of Maria Aguilar's photos


When Maria Aguilar arrived at Virgina Rocca Barton Elementary School, she was about to turn 5 and did not speak a word of English. As a recent newcomer, Ms. Aguilar was very shy but throughout her years at the Alisal Union School District, her teachers always encouraged and supported her. 

“I never felt like I was incapable of doing things, I always felt I had their full support,” she said. “School always intrigued me, I always enjoyed learning.”

From Kindergarten through third grade, Ms. Aguilar attended VRB, where she remembers Ms. Ortiz, Ms. Asmuth and Ms. Koster.

“My teachers believed in me from the beginning,” she said. “They would always push me. Even though I was timid, by third grade I had grasped much more of the English language through reading. When I did participate in class, my teachers would not make me feel ashamed when I gave the wrong answers. With their support, I learned how to trust in myself.” 

Ms. Aguilar then moved to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy in 4thgrade, where she eventually promoted. At MLK, Ms. Aguilar was first enrolled in the GATE program, where she continued until she graduated from high school with honors courses. 

Her teachers at MLK “made it easier for me, they gave me confidence, they knew I was capable of doing so much,” she said. “They supported me, they guided me, they gave me advice. Especially Ms. Silva. I'd talk to her about personal problems, my dreams and goals, and she'd listen to me, advise me. She was my fifth  and sixth grade math teacher. Now she's Ms. Selina Velasquez.” 

Ms. Aguilar attended Harden Middle School and graduated from Everett Alvarez High. After attending Hartnell for two years, she earned a degree in Collaborative Health and Human Services from Cal State University Monterey Bay.

Ms. Aguilar returned to the Alisal USD in August 2016 as a teacher at Fremont Elementary. When her emergency credential expired two years later, the job description for the Parent Education Specialist caught her eye and decided to apply.

“It's related to what I went to school for while at CSUMB, so I wrote a transfer form, I interviewed, tested, and I was hired.”

As a Parent Education Specialist at the Frank Paul Family Resource Center, Ms. Aguilar's view as educator has shifted. Now she gets to see the family struggles and how much of an impact they make on a child's academic performance.

“I was so focused on teaching my students, following the curriculum, meeting expectations and deadlines,” she said. “Here it's providing resources and meeting our families needs so our students can be academically successful. They're completely different, but both positions serve the same purpose and the same community I grew up in.”

As an undocumented student who benefited from the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, Aguilar feels compelled to give back.

“I'm humbled to be here, I 'm happy to be contributing back to my community,” she said. “DACA opened so many opportunities for me and I will be forever grateful. That is why I don't feel I’ve done enough, I want to do so much more for mi comunidad, my home.”

Aguilar is grateful to her teachers in the district who were always caring, and to her mother, Beatriz Aguilar, who has always encouraged her to step outside of her comfort zone.

“Gracias a mi mamá, gracias a mis maestros for believing in me, guiding me, I have come this far in life,” she said. “My mother and my teachers have impacted my life, making me into the person I am today.”