A headshot of Mary Valdemar The work Mary Valdemar does makes an impact beyond San Bernardino Valley College. 

Valdemar is part of the library and learning support services team, and is active in several groups that aim to make a difference in the lives of others. She is a member of the campus' Sustainability Committee, co-chair of the Ethnic Studies Coalition, mentors the SBVC chapter of MEChA, vice president of the Latino Faculty Association, and co-founded ChICCCAA (Chicano Indigenous Community for Culturally Conscious Advocacy and Action), which focuses on Chicano indigenous reconnection, environmental justice, and sacred site protection.

Through these organizations, Valdemar has helped countless students find internships, start advocacy groups, and prepare for careers in community organizing and local and state government.

"We've had a lot of success in inspiring and supporting students who want to do advocacy work," she said.

"When I was in student government, I was mentored by faculty members who encouraged students to participate in shared governance and local community politics, and that made a huge impact on me. In turn, I've tried to duplicate that and have an influence on students."

In 1995, newly divorced and with a young daughter, Valdemar moved to the Inland Empire from the Long Beach area, and started taking classes at SBVC. She's been here ever since, starting as a student worker and spending time in several different departments. Her interest in activism grew as she started taking child development classes and later psychology, sociology, and anthropology courses.

"We have great faculty and really great programs in the classroom, but learning in the classroom is not enough," Valdemar said. "There is a need for us as a community to have hands-on experiences with decision making and leadership and organizing, which is critical to the success of our community."

Valdemar lives in San Bernardino, and says there are two choices for residents: Flee the city or fight to keep the community intact. One of her favorite quotes guides her as she works to make a difference: "We don't organize to educate, we educate to organize."

"The ultimate goal is to have our communities organized and empowered and very involved in the decision making process," she said. "We need folks to get involved, and encourage students of every level and from every department to join in the decision making process. If we don't, we're going to find ourselves in a situation like other communities, where people are forced to leave because there aren't any opportunities."