Centennial graduate named LAEF Student of Year

(07-16-2009)

Ashley Maestas, sophomore pre-medicine major at Adams State College, was named the Colorado Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF) student of the year for the 2008/2009 academic year. She plans on going to medical school to become a pediatrician.

She said it was great to be selected. "I was so excited. I was selected out of everyone in Colorado." The honor includes a four-year scholarship to the college of her choice. "It is great to be a part of the LAEF family."

According to the LAEF website, the mission is providing access to higher education for Hispanics in Colorado. LAEF has served the Colorado Latino community since 1949. The vision of LAEF is to advance the educational leadership and economic status of all Hispanics to improve the greater community. The organization was created 60 years ago.

A graduate of Centennial High School, with a 4.0 GPA, Maestas was active in Class Council, National Honor Society, and received the Positive Behavior Roll Model Award. Maestas became ill at the age of twelve. "I was in and out of hospitals." Her goal of becoming a pediatrician is a result of her challenges. "I don't want any other child to have to struggle as I did. If I can help, I want to make it better for them."

Maestas' older sister, Beverly, an Adams State '96 and '03 graduate, is the principal at Centennial School in San Luis. She said Maestas has faced many personal health struggles in her life and, despite these, has accomplished all of the goals that she set for herself. "She has never given up, and she has never lost her faith in God. She is an amazing young lady, who is not afraid of hard work and is not afraid to follow her dreams. She has my full support, and I believe in her 100 percent."

To receive this honor, Maestas filled out an application and someone, she still does not know who, recommended her. "The LAEF committee gave me a call and told me I was one of three top candidates." A couple of weeks after an interview in Denver, Maestas receive the notice she had been chosen as the Student of the Year.

Maestas was honored at the LAEF Gala in March, 2009. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper introduced her to the crowd of over 1,000 people. "It was unreal," Maestas said. The affair was black tie and dignitaries at the event included United State Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall; Colorado Governor Bill Ritter; and former Denver Mayor Federico Pena and former Colorado Governor Roy Romer.

"I received a standing ovation," Maestas said, after her acceptance speech. The previous summer, Maestas was also recognized, at a Colorado Rockies game. She didn't expect to be out on the field with the players. "I was on the big screen." The organization members call Maestas occasionally and ask how she is. "It helps motivate me, to know they care," Maestas said.

She is the youngest of three children; her parents still live in San Luis. "My sister has always been on me, making sure I finish my homework," Maestas said. Her mom encouraged her when she was sick. "My mom told me, 'never give up on your dreams and goals...let this inspire you to do something.'"

Maestas chose Adams State because it is "close to home" and she appreciates the small class size and getting to know her classmates.

As an educator, Beverly Maestas understands the importance of education. She said college was not an option, it was an expectation. "I have always seen something special in Ashley. I have always believed in her and her potential. She possesses the personal determination and intrinsic motivation that make her stand out above the rest."

By Linda Relyea