Name: Maria Valenzuela

Profession: Chief Program Officer

Company: Advance Community, a nonprofit organization that provides disease prevention, oral health, and nutrition education to under-resourced communities in Arizona and around the world.

Age: 50


What do you do for a living? 

I provide support to under-resourced communities. Growing up, it was difficult to identify with the majority of people because I didn’t look like them and wasn’t fluent in their language. I use my experiences to provide services to communities. We meet members where they are. We’ve reached over 60,000 Hispanic families and I oversee all programs in Arizona and across six other countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, and Mexico. I make sure our actions align with our vision of a world where every person is thriving.


What type of training do you need to do for your job?

It is important to have a college degree in public health, social services, or family studies. You should also consider receiving a community health worker certificate. And of course, have a passion for helping others.


What’s your favorite part of your job?

Every day I am an advocate for our most vulnerable communities, making sure they have access to information and resources that are shared in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way.


But one of my favorite parts is celebrating Mother’s Day. This is a time when we connect with moms in the community and celebrate their hard work and accomplishments. We serve traditional Mexican food such as Sonoran enchiladas, carne asada, and homemade tortillas and beans. There’s plenty of dancing, laughing, and music to enjoy!


What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be an attorney who advocates for children when I was growing up. Even though I’m not in a lawyer’s office, I’m still an advocate for others.


What advice would you give to a kid who wants to have a similar career?

Have tenacity. Stay humble, be honest, and be empathetic towards others. Never underestimate the value in giving back to others.


One fun fact NOT about your job?

I enjoy road trips and traveling abroad. I’ll go anywhere that’s cooler than Arizona!