Maria Baca Vilchez

 “Full circle” is the phrase that comes to mind when describing Maria Baca Vilchez. When Vilchez came to the U.S. 19 years ago, it would have been challenging for anyone to imagine that years later she would be able to give so much to so many.

A pivotal point in Vilchez’s life came five years ago. She was a single mom with two sons and was at a low point when she discovered a free 10-week computer training course at Mary Rigg Community Center, located on the southwest side of Indianapolis. This course changed the trajectory of her life. 

Vilchez did well in the class and ultimately was hired as a receptionist at Mary Rigg. As she went through the day-to-day motions of her job, the leaders at the center noticed that Vilchez had something unique to give back to the community. She is now a community support coach at Mary Rigg, using her history and perspective to help people who are in a similar circumstance as she was just a few short years ago.

She offers empathy and a positive path forward for others like her, focusing on the immigrant population and offering a bridge to American culture. Her warm, welcoming smile gives hope to those searching to start a new life in Indianapolis, learn a new skill, earn a degree or carve a new path for a better career. 

The pride in her job, her co-workers and what she is able to offer to the community is obvious. She says that she is “part of an amazing group of people that improves people’s lives and makes a positive impact and being part of change is an amazing feeling.”

As Vilchez looks to the future, an important wish for the community is that “we get past race and racism and we all work together to make the United States a better country.”

Vilchez’s advice for people who are considering community volunteerism is, “Find it in your heart that it is something that you want to do.”  In that way, one person helps another, who helps another – the definition of full circle. And that is how healthy communities continue to thrive for generations to come.