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María Cervantes

Maria Cervantes is a native of Orange County. She has more than 14 years of experience advocating for children’s wellbeing and access to quality education in the non-profit field. Over the past 12 years, she has worked with the MIND Research Institute (MIND), an Irvine, California-based nonprofit organization, in various capacities – from her start as a receptionist to her current role as the Diversity Partnerships Manager, which involves fundraising and creating collaborative partnerships.

Maria has helped fundraise over $4M for MIND and continues to grow long term supporters to make it possible for thousands of students to participate in MIND’s ST Math program whose STEM-focused curriculum is designed to prepare youth for the challenges of higher education and success in the high-tech workplace. Her work has focused on making the program accessible for Latino, under-served students, and students with disabilities. Maria feels strongly that these students should have the same opportunities as everyone else and not be limited to succeed due to lack off resources. She considers herself an ambassador for students and educators and invites the community to share and support MIND’s mission. MIND currently reaches more than 630,000 students, 25,000 teachers, and 2,050 schools in 35 states.

Growing up in a predominately Latino neighborhood, Maria has taken particular pride in reaching out to the Latino community. Too many times Latino students are deprived of quality education opportunities. Maria has been able to work with schools through MIND’s ST Math program in providing opportunities to implement a visually based math program that teaches children concepts without language easing barriers for students. In a July 2013 article for the Philanthropy Journal, Maria stated, "We focus on helping our kids to become critical thinkers. When they can problem-solve with mathematical concepts, it translates across the board. It makes them feel smart and want to reach higher. We want them to understand that school is not just about memorizing formulas. It's as much about learning about yourself and accepting responsibility for your own success." By collaborating with philanthropic and community partners, Maria has been working with schools to gain the resources and support they need to close the mathematical achievement gap in the schools that partner with MIND.

Previously, Maria worked for the Child Abuse Prevention Center and the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD). She holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from California State University, Fullerton, which she completed when her son was in the 1st grade. She is actively involved in volunteer efforts for SAUSD, the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the TELACU Foundation among various other non-profits.

Recently Maria has been recognized for her tremendous work and impact on behalf of our community’s young students, helping them become tomorrow’s hi-tech professionals with MIND Research Institute’s game-changing ST Math education program. In May 2014, Maria was featured in the Orange County Business Journal as Women in Business nominee. In November 2013, she received the Comerica Bank, Best of LA Women's Business Award, in acknowledgement of her leadership and contribution in Southern California. In April 2013, Maria was named a Fun Fearless Latina by Cosmopolitan for Latinas as one of twelve individuals in the Latin community (including actress Michelle Rodriguez and journalist/TODAY Show co-anchor Natalie Morales) who have made outstanding strides in their field.

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