My name is Maria Cruz and my desire to motivate and push others to succeed has defined my role as an educator. I have had the unique opportunity of being able to call two different countries "home". I was born in Guatemala and spent my childhood and teenage years living a very different life to the one I lead now. I moved to California at the age of 18 and began taking steps to help educate the public but not before I educated myself. I was my own first student as I taught myself English so that I could be helpful in more than one community. I then began helping others of various age groups learn English so that they could become more well rounded. Shortly after, I had children of my own and ensured that they had all the tools they needed to take advantage of every opportunity they would encounter. Together we learned both English and Spanish and I even homeschooled them for a short while. School has always been of the utmost importance in our home and it reflected greatly in their lives. When we moved to Utah, I wanted to continue helping others so much that I found whatever way I could to place myself into the school system. I started off in school cafeterias and worked my way up to working with Special Education Children. I spent many years in SPED before I decided that I also wanted to help those with a similar background to my own so that they wouldn't have to go through it alone like I had to. I began working with ESL (English as a Second Language) students and families, some of whom I still work with today. Unfortunately, my husband fell ill a few years ago, and I had to leave the education system to help take care of him. Even with all the stress that came from being a full time caregiver, I never let go of my desire to teach and help those who needed it. So, I began creating fundraisers and participating in community service targeted at those who needed a little extra help moving forward with their education. When I returned to work, I became more focused than ever and shifted my goals to empowering women/girls and minorities to recognize all the opportunities this country offers them and providing them with all the tools they need to move onto everything they want in life. I want people to know that anything is possible with hard work, big dreams, and the help of others.