TAMPA, Fla. - FOX 13 is honoring the Hispanic Heritage Woman of the Year. Her determination and dedication in the Tampa Bay community is what's right with Tampa Bay.
Grace Maseda Sainz's early-morning stop is the most important of the day. Every morning before work, she visits her childhood home to check on her mom.
"She actually cooks me breakfast every morning. She makes her café con leche and toast, her bread, and we catch up on the day's activities," Sainz said.
The visits remind Grace of her childhood, growing up in West Tampa.
"I walked to school and walked home to my Nana's house, who took care of me in the afternoon," said Grace. "It was a wonderful environment. We all looked out for each other. There was a lot of love in West Tampa."
That community helped Grace understand the importance of a good education. She graduated from Jefferson High School in 1988.
"I knew I wanted to go on to college. College was always an ambition for me, and it was always emphasized in my house. My parents saw education as an opportunity to realize the American dream," Grace explained.
That dream was born when her parents left Cuba to come to the U.S. in 1966.
"My father was encouraged, strongly encouraged, to leave the island. He and my family, my extended family, were never aligned with the Castro regime. And therefore, it was made very clear that they would not have opportunities to better their lives during the Castro regime," Grace added.
Leaving the island gave Grace and her family an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
"They always saw the United States as the land of opportunity. Land of opportunity. Land of freedom. A chance to be who you want to be, not only as an individual exercising your individual voice, but as a member of a community," she said.
Grace was the first in her family to go to college. In 1994, she got a bachelors of science and management degree from St. Leo University and, in 2004, graduated from USF with a masters.
She worked for the St. Petersburg Times for 24 years, in advertising.
"It's not a matter of coming to this country and asking what this country can afford them, or as individuals, but coming to this country and giving back to shape the community you want to see. That's what I observed and that's what I am committed to as well. And I feel that it's incumbent upon me to share that commitment," Grace said.
She is now the vice president of communication for Helios Education Foundation. They provide college scholarships for minority students. She was recently selected as the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Woman of the Year.
"It's a validation of my community's appreciation of the commitment that I have. It's reciprocal. I'm committed to the community, and I deeply appreciate the community's honoring me with this Hispanic woman of the year honor," she said.
Grace's other accomplishments include a position on the board of directors of the Glazer Children's Museum, serving on the Tampa mayor's Hispanic Advisory Committee, charging the Latin Community Advisory Committee at the University of South Florida, and also serving on the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida Board of Directors.