MiraCosta College Professor Maria Figueroa Honored by Latino Literacy Now for Her Work Inspiring Students of Color to Excel in Literature and Life
Maria Figueroa, co-coordinator of the MiraCosta College Puente Project and the first person of color to serve as president of the MiraCosta College Academic Senate, has another honor to add to her long list of accomplishments: 2018 Maestro Award recipient.
The Maestro Award recognizes exemplary instructors who go above and beyond the duties of a teacher to serve as a creative mentor and activist dedicated to multicultural education. It is bestowed by Latino Literacy Now, a nonprofit co-founded by award-winning actor and community activist Edward James Olmos.
“I am very honored and very humbled by this recognition, and I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to continue the work that I do in supporting and validating students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Figueroa said. “But I am just one of many maestros and maestras at our campus who are working toward a similar goal in advocating and supporting first-generation students and students of color.”
Figueroa received the Maestro Award on Saturday, September 15, at the 65th Latino Book and Family Festival at MiraCosta College’s Oceanside Campus. Produced by Latino Literacy Now, the Latino Book and Family Festival was launched in Los Angeles in 1997 and has since become a sought-after event that promotes literacy, culture and education.
The English professor has been teaching for more than two decades. She has spent more than half of her career as a leader with the Puente Project, a hugely successful initiative emphasizing English composition, counseling, and mentoring to boost the numbers of disadvantaged youth who enroll in and graduate from four-year colleges and universities.
Her colleagues laud her for guiding her students through transfer-level writing courses and preparing them to excel in the University of California and California State University systems. In addition, she has introduced the campus community to modern Chicano/a authors, bringing several of them to MiraCosta for lectures and workshops.
Her role as Academic Senate president is also leaving a mark.
“Maria is building awareness on inclusion and promoting equitable hiring practices to diversify the faculty pool,” said Sinar Lomeli, a Puente counselor and co-coordinator. “Taking on this role she has kicked down the door of inequity and has led to the beginning of more inclusive representation.”
Figueroa herself is a first-generation college graduate who comes from a working-class family with roots on both sides of the border. She grew up in Santa Ana, earned her bachelor’s degree in theatre from the University of California, San Diego and her master’s degree in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. She taught as an adjunct instructor at San Diego Mesa College, San Diego State University, and California State University, San Marcos before becoming a tenured professor at San Diego City College and then leaving for MiraCosta College in 2008.
About MiraCosta College
The MiraCosta Community College District has served the coastal North San Diego County area for over 80 years. More than 17,000 credit students per semester in over 70 disciplines enroll in associate degrees, university transfer and workforce readiness certificate programs. The college also serves a wide spectrum of educational needs in the region ranging from programs for adult education, basic skills, and ESL to a California Community College pilot program offering the nation’s first baccalaureate degree in biomanufacturing. MiraCosta College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).