Maria Cornellier

Castro Valley Adult and Career Education

Nominated in 2023


Due to difficult life circumstances, Maria Cornellier did not attend school as a child. Ten years ago, she joined Castro Valley Adult & Career Education in the Adult Basic Education Program. When her children were little, she would pretend to read stories to her children making up things from the pictures so her children would not know she couldn’t read. The entire school is jumping for joy because Maria has gone from zero literacy to completing a high school diploma. She gained so much confidence she was able to work for a while as a Administrator at Trinity counseling. She will start Diablo Valley College in the fall and hopes to eventually attend Christian Grand Canyon University to study Christian faith-based addiction counseling.

Nominee's story:

Due to a difficult upbringing, Maria did not have a formal education. She says it took lots of spiritual healing to get to the point where she could even come to school. She could not read or do basic math when she began with our school. At first she sat in the back with a hoodie trying to hide her face because she had so much shame. Her CVACE instructor Caresse Nguyen was extremely loving and eventually the hoodie came off and Maria was joking around with classmates. She continued from basic math and reading to study high school diploma with Megan Morgan, Crystal Land Korbas and Stacie Annear. She began to have goals for her life that grew as she continued through the program. She went from being the quiet woman hiding in the back to working at Trinity Counseling to help others.

At our WASC visit 6 years ago, Maria shared with the visiting committee and the other students the personal details of her journal. Everyone left that meeting moved and inspired.

In January, she completed her last high school diploma class. She was accepted to Christian Grand Canyon University but because of cost has decided to start at Diablo Valley College this fall. She wants to help people recover from trauma and knows that drugs and alcohol are often used to cover up what they need to heal.

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