Maria S Cruz is a Family Peer Support Program Coordinator for Mental Health Association, LLDP graduate, LLDP class representative, and United Way Board Observer. Learn more about Maria's involvement in the community through United Way:
What inspired you to become involved with United Way?
I became involved with United Way by being a participant of the Latino Leadership Development Program. Through this program I became the class representative and an observer at the Board of Trustees.
What have you learned from your involvement with United Way?
I have been a board member to many organizations before, but my experience as a Board observer gave a clear view of the responsibilities of a Board member and the commitment that you must have to serve your community.
What motivated you to give back to the community with United Way?
I have a heart for children and since I was a child myself, I have been an advocate of children's rights. Whether it is education, housing, mental health, etc, I am always willing and ready to advocate for all the needs of our children.
What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
I have witnessed how Project Uplift has changed multiple lives. Being part of that conversation and seeing the work behind creating this program helped me encourage others to donate and also gave me the opportunity to support struggling members of the Rochester Community.
How have you grown from your involvement with United Way?
Since becoming the class representative and Board Observer, I have become a certified Board member to my children's school Young Womens College Prep. I also ran a political campaign to become Commissioner of Education for the Rochester City School District. And even though I did not get a seat , I am sure I will be able to use my experience as a United Way Board Observer and put those skill into practice when I decide to run for office again, whatever office I decide to run for.
If you had a magic wand to fix one challenge in the Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes community, what would it be?
This is my favorite question and the hardest to answer, because there is so much, I would LOVE to see changed, but if I had a magic wand or the opportunity to fix a challenge in our area, that would be education. Education has become a cookie cutter system, teaching all children the same and not taking in consideration the social and emotional development and childhood trauma. We tend to see a high ability to learn as the only way to success and we see behaviors as road to jail. We need to take care of the WHOLE child. It really does, take a village to raise a child. That village includes the caregivers. Our community is experiencing a mental health crisis, housing crisis, crime crisis, literacy crisis and many other crises. So, trying to fix one challenge, won't get us far, but working together in all challenges, can help us (the village) make our community better and the city of Rochester a better place to live in. An educated community is a successful community where EVERYONE benefits from the success, not some.