Diana Fuentes Michel

Giving Back to the Lincoln Heights Community

As a young child in Lincoln Heights, Diana Fuentes Michel did not consider a four-year college education as a possibility because financially, it appeared out of reach.  Federal, state, institutional and private scholarship aid helped fully fund her undergraduate education at Loyola Marymount University.  In 1975, Diana graduated from Sacred Heart High School in Lincoln Heights. Because of the encouragement and help she received from the Dominican Sisters in completing her college admissions and financial aid applications, she was able to successfully matriculate. Four years later, she graduated as the most outstanding female 1979 graduate of Loyola Marymount University, receiving the prestigious Marian Award. Diana credits the small faculty-student ratio, the support of the Jesuit community, faculty and student services staff, particularly in Chicano Studies, for her college success.

Upon graduation, Diana was awarded a 1979 California State Senate Fellowship, which began her 36 year prestigious career in California government which included three appointments by Governor Gray Davis, first as assistant secretary for higher education, then as Undersecretary for Education as well as Vice Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, before her appointment by the California Student Aid Commission as Executive Director where served until her retirement in 2015. Diana was instrumental in expanding educational opportunity through the implementation of the Cal Grant Entitlement, the California Dream Act and the federal Direct Lending Program in California. Her efforts to expand outreach to low and underrepresented students through programs such as Cash for College enabled this expansion of college aid.

Diana's own college-going experience shaped her view and understanding of how to improve college access for low-income students, particularly immigrant students. Diana's paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States from Chihuahua Mexico at the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, settling first in Clifton, Arizona and Monrovia, California before eventually settling in Lincoln Heights during the 1940's.  Her father (LHS '49) as well as some of her father's nine older brothers and sisters graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School during this time.  While at Lincoln, Diana's father was on the basketball team, a Yell King, and on the Yearbook staff.  Her maternal great grandparents settled in El Paso, Texas in the late 1890's, with her mother moving with her grandmother to Los Angeles at the age of 12. Her mother is a 1952 graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles.

Diana and her husband, Jose Michel, have been involved in their community as well.  They were both members of the founding planning committee of the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project. The project holds various leadership programs through the year for high school students.  The hallmark conference which is held for 120 students in Sacramento each year has helped to develop the leadership of over 3,000 students since its establishment in 1980. Last year, Diana received the "Keeper of the Flame" award for her life-long commitment to the project and Chicano/Latino students.

Diana has establishing a college scholarship in her name to help students from Sacred Heart achieve their college dreams. She understands from her own life, the economic, personal and academic challenges of pursing a higher education. She hopes to help students, who without financial assistance would not be able to attend college.