This year Metztli Maldonado received a scholarship from not one, but two funds at Central Valley Community Foundation—the Jason Leal Scholarship Fund and the Fresno Unified School District Scholarship Fund—helping her as she began her first semester at Cornell this fall.

When asked if she had any notable mentors as she made her way to Cornell, she shared that her AP environmental science teacher at Roosevelt High School inspired her in choosing to pursue a degree in Environment and Sustainability. “Mr. Gromis’ commitment to active learning, student leadership, and building an awareness for our relationship and effect on the Earth, fueled my passion for climate justice,” Metztli said. “He always had us do hands-on and interactive activities, and presentations.”

 Gromis oversaw the high school’s Ecology Club, with Metztli serving as its president. The teacher helped connect her with an internship at U.S. Green Build Council Central California, and would often talk to Metztli about her future academic plans.

 There are two other important people that influenced Metztli’s academic and personal accomplishments—her parents. “My parents have inspired me to pursue higher education because I am witness to how higher education provided a better life for them. As immigrants and Chicanos, my parents’ efforts and commitment to activism, enthnographic history, and indigenous ways of knowing have shown my sisters and I the breadth and amalgamation of cultural and scholastic understanding.”

 Metztli understands the importance of mentorship and often motivated her classmates at Roosevelt, helping them navigate the perplexities of precalculus. She recognized many of her high school peers were first-generation, and was always willing to spend time helping them with their schoolwork. “I served as a resource for students to reach out to whenever they had a question about homework or were preparing for a big exam or essay—even at 3 a.m.,” Metztli shared. “People felt comfortable reaching out to me. And if I saw others struggling I would offer to tutor them.”

 Halfway through her first semester at Cornell, the Roosevelt grad is thriving. She’s hit it off with her roommate and has developed a great circle of friends. A folklorico dancer since she was six-years-old, Metztli is in the university’s Latin dance group. Following graduate school, she is considering pursuing a career in either a sector of climate work or something with a social justice and humanities focus—her oceanography class has sparked her interest and she may explore a career in this field. Whichever path Metztli pursues, she has her Valley cheering her on, and it’s clear she will positively impact the world around her—in more than one way.

Metztli's parents

Metztli and her new friends at Cornell