Student profile: Deja Maestas

Senior+Deja+Maestas+believes+in+the+power+of+art+and+education+to+transform+lives.

Courtesy Photo

Senior Deja Maestas believes in the power of art and education to transform lives.

Cara Hollis, Reporter

When Sierra Nevada University Senior Deja Maestas dreams, she dreams big. The 20-year-old senior is looking to turn lessons learned as a child growing up in urban Denver, and her artistic talents, into a way to help kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds succeed in the world.

“I want to design a large home for at-risk youth to provide education, community and give them an understanding that there is power in their education.” Maestas said.

Maestas (lower left) is pictured with older brother Efran and cousins Jahlyssa and Enrique in this 2004 photo. (Courtesy Photo)

Her experiences growing up have led Maestas to value the power of education and how it can change lives. Maestas is focused on sharing her knowledge with others.

“Understanding that there is such a large gap in communication between the privileged and the impoverished is the start,” she said. “If we are lucky enough to educate ourselves and go to college, there is opportunity to share that wealth of knowledge with those lacking it, or those whom the system has written off as just another statistic.”

Maestas, who studies fine art, is using this philosophy to inspire an upcoming art show, which will feature an interpretation of a future “dream home.” The show is scheduled for April 14 at SNU.

Maestas, a resident advisor at SNU, found inspiration for such a lofty goal in her own childhood and the secure and stimulating place she discovered in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. Julio Flores, the club’s director, worked with Maestas.

“I have mentored hundreds of kids and she is one I am definitely proud of,” he said. “She was here every day. She participated in athletic programs, leadership courses and ‘Youth of the Year’ programs. And she even became a junior staff member.”

This was on top of Maestas’ studies at CEC Early College in exercise and health, film, and architecture.

“Her bond with colleagues and other club kids was incredible,” Flores said. “She brought life and energy to everything.”

Maestas’s connection with the club also brought her to SNU. Her sophomore year of high school the club took a group of students on a bus trip from Denver to San Francisco.  Lake Tahoe was an overnight stop.

“It was that moment that I realized I loved this place,” she said.

When it was time to look for schools, SNU was not only in a beautiful location that was a change of pace from the hectic big-city life of Denver, but it also had a video program that interested her creative side as well.

Part of Maestas’s strength comes from dealing with family tragedy.

“Going through the journey to accept what happened, learning how to move forward, and creating a language within myself to deal, grow and find acceptance has taught me I can get through anything,” she said. “Families who deal with tragedy with communication and acceptance create a beautiful harmony and a sense perseverance that we can pull through anything and make it happen, even if it isn’t always pretty.”