Maria Difazio might not ring a bell... Think again... Does the always-smiling Maria from the Mag Room jolt your memory?
Since being thrown headfirst into the scary world of college as freshmen, Maria has been an everyday facet of Wake life with her reassuring smile, bringing a little bit of happiness into the day-in-and-out stress of being Wake students.
“Just like me, I understand that these students come from different places – cities, states, even countries, like me – and that they are homesick. They don’t have their mothers with them anymore. They can feel comfortable in this room – the Magnolia Room. I feel like they are all my children.”
Having spent the majority of her life in Colombia, Maria moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2000 with her husband and children, 20 and 14. Though Maria loved her first home in America, she decidedly prefers the opportunities and lifestyle North Carolina offers.
“Life was never boring in New York – always something to do. The subways, buses – but I was always able to speak Spanish, and I never had to really practice English. But North Carolina is beautiful, perfect for my family. Good and quiet.”
Soon after the Difazios’ move to North Carolina nearly 3 years ago, Maria realized that there was more she wanted to accomplish.
“After my daughter went to college at N.C. State, I got lonely in the house by myself. So I told my husband that I wanted to work! I wanted to work at a school so that I could have many children. I wanted a good, prestigious school. I wanted to work at Wake Forest.”
One of Maria’s favorite things to do for her thousands of ‘kids' at Wake is to plan birthdays. Just tell Maria when it’s a friend’s birthday, and she’ll make sure that they get a proper birthday party – complete with a cake (with candles, duh) and a whole Mag Room in (semi) unison singing ‘Happy Birthday.’
When Aramark officials considered cutting the birthday celebrations, Maria would hear none of it. Asserting with a beaming smile and elaborate gestures, Maria declared, “I love to spread cheer! I want to make all of my ‘children’ feel comfortable and like this is their home. That is the most important thing to me.”
So if you’re homesick, are in need of a mommy to make you feel better, and just want to be taken care of, look no further than Maria. She’ll fix you a hot tea in no time and give you that special attention that is just plain hard to find away from home.
And guess what – Maria truly is always as happy as she seems every time you step foot in the Mag Room. Every student becomes a familiar face, and she loves the family feel of the Mag Room. “It’s a little step closer to feeling like a meal at home,” says Maria.
Maria’s goal in coming to Wake Forest was to improve her English. And though she’s still unsure of herself, she admits that her proficiency has skyrocketed since joining the Aramark staff in 2008. Now she reads the newspaper in English and is so excited to finally “be able to express myself fully in English” says Maria. “To get this job – my first job in the United States – was the most important moment of my life. And now I get to improve my English? I am just so very, very thankful.”
When talking about her Wake ‘children,’ Maria beams like any other proud mother. She literally never wipes the infectious smile off her face, even when alluding to how sad she was when her daughter left for college.
So next time you’re dead from an all-nighter, hacking with the flu, or celebrating a birthday, beeline to Maria for some much-needed TLC. She’s sure to greet you with a big bear huge and contagious smile.