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Meet Maria Castillo Gomez

As a child in a small town in Mexico, Maria Castillo Gomez dreamed of a life with more opportunities than she had with her job of harvesting tomatoes. With her education at MiraCosta College, she says her future is now bright.

“I’m so passionate about having a better job,” Gomez said. “I love helping people. I want to help them.”

Gomez’s passion for her education led to her being selected as a semifinalist for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Award for community college students. She is one of four MiraCosta College students selected as semifinalists in 2024.

Gomez’s family immigrated to the United States in 2001 when she was 14. She attended high school but found it difficult.

“It was very hard for me to learn the language,” she said. “I wanted to learn. I wanted to have a better education.”

She dropped out after two years so she could work to help support her family. While working at a Mexican restaurant, she met the man who became her husband. They had two children, and Gomez wanted to resume her education. Her husband resisted.

“I told him I’m going back to school,” Gomez said. “I want to improve and I want to be an example for my kids.”

She obtained her high school diploma at MiraCosta’s Community Learning Center. Gomez said Jon Fuzell, who was head tutor at the center, urged her to attend MiraCosta College. “He inspired me to pursue my dreams,” Gomez said. “I felt so defeated. He gave me the extra push that I needed.”

Gomez began attending MiraCosta College in 2017 while raising her two children and working 35 to 40 hours weekly at the restaurant.

“It’s been a challenge,” she said. “Being a wife and a mother and student and working, it’s not easy.”
She said she has been supported by numerous faculty and staff members at MiraCosta College, including English Professor Curry Mitchell and Daniel Ante-Contreras, the honors program coordinator.

“They understand the students and they help the students a lot. They’re awesome,” she said. “They do a really good job of teaching and lecturing the class.”

She also used the college’s writing center almost daily. “They helped me a lot to polish my papers. I would have grammar mistakes and they would be like ‘Fix this. It’s not so clear for the reader.’ They guided me to see my mistakes,” Gomez said.

Gomez graduated from MiraCosta College in May 2023 with a general education degree and began attending CSU San Marcos in early 2024. After she earns her bachelor’s degree, Gomez would like to return to the Community Learning Center as a teacher to help others as she was helped.
“It’s like home,” Gomez said. “I love the place.”

Her advice to other students considering MiraCosta College? “I would tell them that MiraCosta is a great place to follow their dreams and not give up. Keep pushing, and one day you will do it.”

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