A University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate has made it her life mission to help families send their kids to college.
Maria “Mayca” Alvarez is graduating this semester with a bachelor’s degree in world languages with a concentration in Spanish and a passion for helping students prepare and succeed in college.
“Graduating feels like reaching the summit of a challenging mountain climb,” Alvarez said. “When I started, there were moments of doubt, akin to the vertigo experienced when contemplating how long the journey to graduation would be. Now, I can express gratitude for not giving up and successfully reaching this milestone.”
A native of Vigo, Spain, Alvarez moved to Arkansas in 2003 with her family. She started college at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College and transferred to UA Little Rock in 2021. Along the way, she has gained valuable experience through an internship with the Central Arkansas Library System.
“This experience has been excellent, primarily focused on programs celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month,” Alvarez said. “This opportunity has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the library system and discover the diverse range of activities they offer.”
“Spanish majors at UA Little Rock complete internships to help prepare them for the workplace,” said Dr. Edma Delgado-Solórzano, assistant professor of Spanish. “Mayca completed her internship with Hispanic Community Liaison María Aguilar with the Central Arkansas Library System. She learned how to plan and deliver public programs and how to improve community outreach projects.”
She credits two people for their significant roles in helping her complete her college education.
“Sandra Carmona Jobe stands out,” Alvarez said. “She opened the door to higher education for me, providing the encouragement I needed when I doubted myself. Additionally, Professor Edma Delgado-Solórzano has been a mentor during my time at UA Little Rock, offering guidance and encouragement that has played a significant role in my journey to graduation.”
Alvarez also had the unique experience of attending UA Little Rock at the same time as her youngest son, Alejandro Alvarez-Barreiro, who will graduate next year with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering technology and world languages-Spanish, just like his mom. Alvarez-Barreiro is a music minor who plays percussion instruments, and Alvarez said her favorite times at UA Little Rock have been watching her son play in university concerts.
“It’s been a joy to witness the talent and dedication showcased in these performances and to share those experiences with my son,” she said.
Helping Students Find the Path to College
When her oldest son entered high school in 2015 and started thinking about college, Alvarez realized that she has little knowledge about the higher education system in the U.S.
“This led me to do research and connect with other women facing similar concerns about their children’s educational futures,” Alvarez said. “We started meeting together to share information, and we thought that information would be helpful for other families. The first time we had a community meeting was in January 2018. It was a cold, rainy night, and more than 100 people showed up that day. We realized that people needed help, and that is when Mamás Unidas started.”
Alvarez is a co-founder and president of Mamás Unidas (United Moms for Education) Little Rock, a nonprofit organization which provides first-generation Latino students and their families guidance on attaining post-secondary education through workshops, career counseling, college entrance exam preparation, and career fairs.
UA Little Rock faculty and staff have been a great support to Mamás Unidas over the years, Alvarez said. Professors have collaborated with the organization to provide math and writing workshops and college exam preparation classes.
Since 2020, Alvarez also worked as a part-time project assistant for the UA Little Rock TRIO programs, where she helped provide comprehensive support to high school students and adults seeking higher education opportunities. After graduation, she will work full-time for TRIO continuing her work of expanding the educational opportunities for first-generation and non-traditional students.
“I am eager to contribute to their educational journeys and help them achieve their goals,” she said.