Maria Maya Cruz was born in Mexico and came to the United States 19 years ago. The mother of four has been a program participant at Santa Maria for several years. She has worked with Santa Maria’s Promoting Our Preschoolers (POP) program, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, Wellness program and the women’s group as part of Santa Maria’s Immigrant Outreach program.

Maria first entered Santa Maria’s Promoting Our Preschoolers program. POP helped her children gain vital early childhood skills like identifying feelings and learning new language to express those feelings, fine and gross motor skills, letters and letter sounds, numbers, counting and rhyme. At the time, Maria was living in a shelter with her children. Santa Maria was able to help her apply for assistance for her children. “It was nice because I felt that during this difficult time, I had someone who treated me and my children with respect and kindness,” Maria said.

Santa Maria Bilingual Family Centered Coach, Serah Watson first worked with Maria’s family in ESL classes. “Maria is a kind and eager participant. She is always willing to work with us and is open to learning new things about how she can further her self-development,” she said.  Taking ESL classes made Maria more at ease with speaking to others and asking for help when she needed it. “I feel more confident and have better self-esteem after working with Santa Maria,” she said.

Serah was impressed with Maria’s work ethic. “It has always been a delight working with Maria,” she said. “When I was the ESL Coordinator a few years ago, she came to class excited with a smile on her face and had great attendance.” Serah is now Maria’s coach. She continued, “She is a great mom, who finds every way to support her children and give them the best life possible. Now, as her coach, I look forward to working with her in a new capacity to continue to help her succeed.”

Maria also enjoyed the women’s group. She said, “When I participated in the coffee hour group, we talked about a lot of things, but the sessions on building confidence and self-esteem helped me the most. It taught me how to improve my self-esteem, self-love, self-respect, and how to feel more secure in myself.” Santa Maria’s women’s group meets every Tuesday. They have a variety of activities from food and nutrition education to gardening classes. The group also receives support to improve relationships and communication with participants’ children.

Francesca Phillis, Stable Families Bilingual Case Manager, also worked with Maria on wellness issues. She referred Maria to an acupuncture specialist. The acupuncture sessions helped Maria relieve headaches, back pain and stress. Now she’s interested in learning about meditation and yoga. Francesca said, “Maria Maya is a pleasure to work with because she has such an upbeat attitude and is pretty open to trying new things like acupuncture. She’s a dedicated mom who is always searching for ways to improve the lives of her children and utilizes our services to benefit her family.”

Maria has also benefited from food box distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic. And now Maria is looking ahead at attaining her High School Equivalency! “Santa Maria is a good place to look for resources that serve the community,” she said. “I’ve had a positive experience with the various family-centered coaches and case workers who have helped me and my family.” Santa Maria staff have no doubt that Maria will achieve her goals. “Maria Maya is an unforgettable client; she radiates positivity and is beloved by Santa Maria staff,” Francesca said.

Maria is raising her children, Maria is learning, Maria is making friends, Maria is learning to thrive and strive.  Thanks to her own character and thanks to Santa Maria’s multifaceted help.

Please consider donating to Santa Maria to help families thrive.  Thrive like Maria…