Fresno State’s First Lady Mary Castro has a heart for students and a passion for giving back, but what she does for others comes from a much deeper reasoning.
Her life story growing up is one too similar to a lot of young people here in the Central Valley.
Mary Castro has a shining smile. Her positivity spreads beyond the room, but what truly stands out about her is what she does to make a difference.
“One of my mottos is show up and lift up,” Castro said.
She does a lot more than lift up.
Castro has helped hundreds of Fresno State students get through college simply by providing a meal for them.
In 2014, she helped open the Student Cupboard on campus with the hopes of ending student hunger.
“We serve over 10,000 visits a month; so we are making a big difference in the lives of our students,” Castro said.
Her goal is to be a support system for all students.
She wants them to fully concentrate on their studies and not be worried about where their next meal is coming from.
“We can find a way to help them,” Castro said. “We can find a way to get them across that stage for graduation and then have them be the teachers, and the nurses, and the business leaders in our community.”
During graduation, she hugs more than 1,000 students.
She said seeing them walk onto that stage is very important to her and her husband – Fresno State President Joseph Castro; both grew up in the Central Valley.
“We sat in the same students’ desks as our students sit in; we know how they feel” and what types of struggles they face living in the Valley, she said.
A common struggle is deciding between college or helping out the family. That’s a decision Castro had to make one year into college.
“I got a phone call that my father injured himself, and I came home. I am the oldest of two daughters, and I came home, and I worked and I helped my family,” Castro said.
Despite not having an academic background, she knew she had to continue serving.
“You can turn any life experience no matter how painful and negative it is into something positive,” she said. “I felt that if I showed up, and I was willing to do what ever it took, that over time that I could make a difference in our community.”
To this day she has been making a difference. You will find her giving back almost every day.
She reads at elementary schools all across the Valley, volunteers for numerous organizations, and always makes time for youth.
“Pairing up with a mentor is something I would recommend young women to do, and I try to encourage women who are in positions where they are being successful to make that effort and make themselves available to younger girls and to women.”
Castro has a special message for all young women of our community.
“No one can tell you what your potential is; no one can tell you how many fabulous life experinces you are going to have but you,” she said. “You are the one who knows.”