As a first-generation daughter of Mexican immigrants who settled in Indio, Michelle Fausto grew up with a love for her Hispanic heritage and a great appreciation for the sacrifices her parents made in order to give their family a better future. “We’ve always celebrated our roots,” says Michelle, “but Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for us to get together, enjoy traditional activities, and spread awareness about the rich culture we’ve inherited.”

Michelle is a two-time recipient of the Castro/Falk Scholarship through IECF, which is awarded to Coachella Valley students who demonstrate motivation, perseverance and a sincere desire to gain an education. During her undergraduate work at UCLA, Michelle credits the scholarships with making it possible for her to focus on her studies and stay involved in her community. As a first-generation high school and college graduate, she now considers it her privilege and responsibility to act as a mentor to youth of Hispanic heritage.

Michelle’s dual major in Political Science and Labor Studies led her to an internship at the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, where she participated in citywide anti-homelessness advocacy and direct work with individuals experiencing food insecurity. After graduation, she was awarded a fellowship with the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship. She’s currently at UC Irvine where she works with the Fresh Basic Needs Hub to ensure that students have food and housing security, which became especially important during the pandemic. Next year the fellowship will transfer her to Washington, D.C., and Michelle would someday love to return to the Coachella Valley to give back to the community where she was raised.

When asked what gives her hope as a young person in today’s world, Michelle answered,  “Local organizing, people raising up issues that need to be illuminated, the prospect of giving back to my community by establishing a nonprofit organization – this is what encourages and motivates me.”

Congratulations on your accomplishments, Michelle! We look forward to following your journey.

The Castro/Falk Scholarship Fund of the Coachella Valley is established as an endowed scholarship by David Falk and Lisa Castro to honor the memory of Efren Castro and Elynor Rudnick Falk in perpetuity. Sun Gold, Inc. represented by Efren Castro and Elynor Rudnick Falk, was active in agribusiness in the Coachella Valley, contributing substantially to the economy of the area.