Award Recipient Sets Positive Example for Next Generation
By Eric Breier
Nancy Meza knows how vital teachers are to a student’s success. It’s what inspired her to pursue teaching as a career.
Knowing firsthand the impact a teacher can have on a child made it all the more special for Nancy to have her students present virtually when she was recognized as one of two recipients of the President's Student Champion Award for Inclusive Excellence and Diversity during the All Peoples Luncheon on Oct. 29.
As Cal State San Marcos President Ellen Neufeldt highlighted a handful of Nancy’s long list of accomplishments, the children whom Nancy works with as a student teacher at Conway Elementary School in Escondido were watching the celebration online.
“They were so proud of me,” Nancy said. “And I know, even for that little bit of time that they talked about me during the ceremony, that I was a role model to them. I'm hoping that they take something from that and really want to be inclusive when they grow up.”
Nancy’s passion for fostering diversity and inclusiveness largely stems from her time with ACE Scholars Services, which supports former foster youth at CSUSM, and her involvement with ART=OPPORTUNITY and Center ARTES, arts education programs started by music professor Merryl Goldberg.
In fact, it was through ACE that Nancy landed a position working with Goldberg.
“Once I started at ACE, they slowly started getting me to break out of my shell and really being able to talk to people and advocate for others,” said Nancy, who received her bachelor’s in liberal studies last May and is now enrolled in CSUSM’s multiple subject teaching credential program.
It was while Nancy was taking Goldberg’s “Learning Through the Arts” course that the ACE staff approached Goldberg to see if she might have a position for Nancy.
Goldberg credits Nancy for being an integral part of the success of numerous arts activities and programs, including the College and Career Pathway program in which Nancy worked with the Creative Youth Development Network to provide workshops for youth in after-school programs. Goldberg also lauded Nancy for taking the initiative on trainings related to Black Lives Matter, inclusion and diversity. Along with another student, Nancy even assisted on the sixth edition of Goldberg’s book on arts integration in multicultural settings, helping to find ways to improve examples of diversity, inclusion of nonbinary gendered individuals, and the inclusion of stories of foster youth and unsheltered people.
“Nancy is truly a student who exudes inclusive excellence, lives diversity and is thoroughly deserving of every accolade imaginable,” Goldberg said. “She is really someone special, and I am so lucky to be able to work with her – and learn from her – on a daily basis.”
Nancy expects to complete her teaching credential next spring and hopes to have her own class of elementary school students next fall. It’s a path she was inspired to follow because of the teachers who helped her at Orange Glen High School in Escondido. When Nancy became pregnant with her daughter, Gabriella, during her senior year of high school, one of her teachers even drove to the children’s center where Nancy was living to ensure that she wouldn’t fall behind.
“I had a lot of support from my high school teachers,” said Nancy, whose second child, Santiago, was born in April. “They were really great role models for me. I always knew I wanted to teach, and I always knew that I wanted to make everyone that I came across feel the way that they made me feel.”
Goldberg has no doubt that Nancy will do just that.
“Nancy is amazing,” Goldberg said. “She is a thoroughly dedicated, reflective and energetic student and human who lives diversity and inclusivity. Her ability to manage ART=OPPORTUNITY activities, website, social media, and everything else we do to support youth and arts education is superb.
“Nancy is the glue that brings us together and binds us. I can’t imagine what it will be like when she graduates. Her future students are going to be so very lucky – as lucky as I am to learn from her and work with her daily.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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