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The time has come. It’s the final week in our ongoing Read. Resist. Vote. series. And then? Well, I hope you all rush your local voting booths or send in those mail-in ballots, voting like hell to boost the candidates who have our best interests at heart. Because lord knows there’s a lot of bullshit going down out there. And those who seek to yank us deeper into the dystopian hellscape to which we’ve become accustomed are loud as hell. Don’t let them shout their way to victory.
Below, you can get the lowdown on one final candidate. And of course, you can revisit week one here, week two here, week three here, week four here, and week five here. Of course, this is just a small sampling of those who are fighting for our rights. In running this series, I hope that we’ve shown you that they’re out there. They exist. And they need our help.
You know what to do.
Maria Salamanca — Orange County, Florida — OCPS School Board District 2
After immigrating to America at the age of 7, Maria Salamanca attended a variety of schools in the Orange County Public Schools district. In high school, she was Student Body President and Debate Captain. After graduation, she founded the OCPS Super Scholar Success Initiative. This Initiative provides support to students pursuing out-of-state education and resources to parents. In her work as an entrepreneur and investor, Maria spent seven years working in rapidly changing sectors including educational technology and digital health. She also co-founded LatinxVC, a national nonprofit focused on increasing the number of Latinx folks in venture capital. In 2018, she was named Forbes 30 Under 30 for Venture Capital.
Maria credits her school teachers with believing in and empowering a first-generation Latina to achieve academic and career success. Part of the reason she is running for OCPS School Board is to pay it forward to the next generation, which Maria believes is the most diverse and entrepreneurial student group yet. She hopes to be the first alumni voice in District 2 of the Orange County School Board.
What are you reading right now?
I am currently re-reading The Coddling of the American Mind, a fantastic book about the generational changes in parenting, education, and its impact on children’s mental health and our larger political discourse.
What’s driving you to run for the OCPS school board?
I am a product of OCPS. I was in our schools for 12 years Monday to Friday. I attended schools whose demographics and funding varied drastically from each other, and I saw the impacts of that on teachers, students, and my own trajectory. Some of the most incredible teachers who helped me get where I am today have left the classroom for a variety of reasons. I want to work with the Superintendent to improve morale across the district and retain our best teachers. I believe our district can do better and while the Board has several parents and teachers, I would be the only Spanish speaker that can speak to the challenges the Hispanic and immigrant populations are impacted by. I also have a career in finance and technology, areas that are core issues as Federal Funds will dry out in the coming years and our schools must adapt to the ever-changing landscape of technology in the classrooms.
How does your firsthand experience as an OCPS student influence your vision for OCPS now?
We’ve never had a recent student voice in the school board. There have always been parents and teachers, which are incredibly important perspectives. However, with the changes heading our way in society and as a recent student who’s built a career in technology, I believe I bring a unique perspective to prepare our district to capitalize on changes rather than be caught off guard. I hope our district, the 9th largest in the country, can be a leading example of how new learning technologies can be implemented in a way that is not cumbersome to teachers, parents, or students.
Tell us about your work with Swing Left.
After the 2016 election, a couple of friends and I thought it would be interesting to build a tool that had never been built before. The tool allowed anyone in the U.S. to find their nearest swing/purple U.S. House district. We then used this information to re-direct volunteers and donations to candidates in those districts once they won their primaries. Swing Left has become one of the most helpful financial and grassroots resources for candidates across the country.
What strategies are you and your campaign using to get people out to the polls?
As a school board campaign with a limited budget, we leverage our relationships and partnerships. We know there are really great organizations out there that focus on getting out the vote and registering voters. In the early days of the campaign, we made sure to spread the word as we knocked on doors on the importance of registering and voting.