Maria Espinosa is among Cal Poly Humboldt’s ﬁrst graduating class of 2022. She has been part of our University Prep program since middle school, took advantage of outdoor enrichment opportunities through high school, worked with our civic engagement team during college, and is among the first group of students in our emerging College to Career program.
A decade ago, as a middle school student, Maria joined University Prep (UP!), an intensive after-school-program that provides students with academic and social-emotional support toward the goal of earning a degree at a four-year university.
Early on, Maria discovered a passion, and a motivation for her academic studies, by taking advantage of an outdoor wilderness experience at Camp Unalayee in Northern California’s Trinity alps. “Because of Canal Alliance, I was able to go to camp,” Maria reflects, “and make connections with Point Reyes National Park. I was able to backpack. I finally had access to nature.”
In addition to her outdoors experiences, Maria found a safe space at Canal Alliance. In high school, she leaned into utilizing the resources and found a mentor among the staff, including Michael Gomez and Claudia Garcia, College to Career Senior Manager.
Maria matriculated at Cal Poly Humbolt, along with a fellow UP! student, Javier Aguirre, but during her junior year of college, the pandemic hit and college went remote.
Maria continued her studies, from home, and gained experience working with Canal Alliance as an intern, helping register new voters in the community leading up to the 2020 election. It was an important learning experience, she recalls, and a way to contribute to the community.
For many students, including Maria, the pandemic added to stress levels and impacted mental health. “I reached out to Claudia again,” Maria shares, “because I was having a difficult time in college. But I was able to get therapy through Canal Alliance during my senior year. Having a therapist who was Latina helped me through the process. She understood what I was going through.”
“I started working with Maria when she was a freshman in college,” said Claudia. For Claudia, being able to watch her grow throughout her college career and watched her graduate from Cal Poly Humboldt was an honor.
“She is passionate about environmentalism and giving back to her community, specifically first-gen Latinx students. I am excited to continue working with her post college and see her continue to break barriers and grow as a person.” said Claudia
Maria stayed on track academically, graduating from college in four years, and is gaining professional experience as a racial justice intern. She continues to tap into the support and connections at Canal Alliance and is exploring graduate school and future career paths with Claudia.
“I realize,” Maria notes, “that I am not meant to be indoors all day and want to explore I want to do something that I enjoy and go outside.”