The Face Behind Equality

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Photo by Diaz De Villegas

Have you ever passed by that rainbow-lit office in the Student Services wing with that calm, relaxing music that makes you just want to stay in her office forever? Or maybe you just need a person to listen to you or to nurture you? That office belongs to guidance counselor Ms. Diaz de Villegas, and she wears many hats here at Miami High.

Student Services Department Chair
In the summer of 2015, Ms. Diaz de Villegas was appointed Student Services department chairperson by principal Mr. Valdes.
Ms. Diaz de Villegas’ co-workers really admire the great person she is. Senior counselor Ms. Dayma Echeverria said, “She is a great person to work with she is my soul sister.”
Supervising the student services for a student body of 3,000 students is not an easy task. On top of that, Ms. Diaz de Villegas is also the counselor for all students in the special education department.
“The best thing that has ever happened to me has been working with special education students because I have learned patience and compassion to open my heart without judgment,” she said.
At risk students, teenage parents, and LGBTQ+ students are mostly the types of students Ms. Diaz de Villegas works with. For students at risk of dropping out, she guides them the right way. For that small population of girls at Miami High that get pregnant, Ms. Diaz de Villegas leads them to all the resources they need.

Gay Straight Alliance
Ms. Diaz de Villegas is also the founder and current sponsor for the Gay Straight Alliance (G.S.A.), a club in which students discuss and learn about sexual orientations, gender identities, and other issues in the LGBTQ+ community.
G.S.A. President Wendy Gomez says, “She has impacted GSA in many ways. She is always throwing out ideas to make us a better club.”
G.S.A. sponsors many activities at Miami High including the Mock Weddings on Valentines’ Day which is a fundraiser where different people get married and receive a ring and a marriage certificate. Ally Week, which takes place the week of January 11th-January 15th, is full of magnificent events which promote the LGBTQ+ community and promote awareness of STDs and AIDS. G.S.A. also gets involved outside of the school at the annual Miami Beach Gay Parade and also does many community service events with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Retirement
Unfortunately in the spring of 2016, Ms. Diaz de Villegas will be retiring after working 30 years with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “I will miss Miami High more than words can say,” she said.
Ms. Diaz de Villegas will definitely be busy in her retirement. For one, she will be working as a part-time counselor in a charter school. She is also an author and a poet and will continue her writing. In fact, she is planning to write a book of short stories in the near future.

Born on January 14th, 1956, in Havana, Cuba, Ms. Maria Elena Diaz de Villegas, immigrated to Miami as a young child. Ms. Diaz de Villegas attended Coral Gables Elementary, Ponce de Leon Junior High School, and Coral Gables Senior High School.
Her college career began at Miami Dade Community College, and then she transferred to Mercy College, a four-year private liberal arts college in Dobbs Ferry, New York, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s in Behavioral Sciences. As time passed she also went back to school for her Master of Science in Psychology with a major in School Counseling from Carlos Albizu Univeristy in Doral.
She is currently married to Alice Janosi, with whom she has had a relationship for 20 years. Reading, photography, foreign films, meditation, and writing are her hobbies.