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Maria Cadenas

Class of 2000

Awarded in 2010
Young Alumni Award

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson, crouched over a candlelit desk in June of 1776, agonized over how best to summarize succinctly and reflect the soul of this new and unique place called the United States of America.

Fast forward 220 years to 1996 and we see remarkable similarities in an entrance essay by an applicant to Beloit College. “The sky was the same color. The wind blew with the same force as past days. And yet I knew nothing was the same. It was a new day, in a new school, in a new country. A country of freedom and equality.”  The essay, written by Maria Cadenas, was describing her fifth grade year, her first in the United States. She went on to describe that with freedom often comes prejudice, racism, and struggle. And while she acknowledged a presence and power of cynicism, she also acknowledged hope.

“I knew that one day I would fly. And I knew that I would not follow but lead.”

And lead she has. Maria graduated from Beloit in 2000 with a degree in creative writing and business administration. While at Beloit she was active in WBCR, Gold Key, Voces Latinas, Social Board, Amnesty International, The Round Table, and Mortar Board. Since graduation, Maria has gone on to do important work first as assistant director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and now as executive director for the Cream City Foundation of Milwaukee, the second oldest gay and transgender community foundation in the country. The group seeks to promote, educate, and provide funds for gay and transgender communities in southeastern Wisconsin.

It is with great pride and pleasure that today we recognize Maria Cadenas for her outstanding work in a young career as she dedicates herself to defending and promoting those rights and that happiness that Jefferson stressed as being unalienable.