What gives you a sense of belonging at East?

Maria Burleson


Miley Jimenez, Journalist

Building relationships is a good place to start.  Consider our Restorative and Safety Coordinators (RSC) here at East High School. All RSCs, Matt, Molly, and Maria, dedicate their time and energy to helping students build healthy relationships, as well as ensure a safe learning community at East High.  They all have their unique skill sets, but for our reading, we’ll dive into learning more about Maria Burleson. 

Picture this…You get called down to the main office and you don’t know why. They point you to a small room where you sit face to face with RCS, Maria Burleson.  She is a direct person and, while loving, she gets straight to the point regarding your attendance, grades, behavior and needed help. Burleson dishes out tough love; she makes sure you know that she is here to help and support you through your struggles. This is an experience many students in the East community have been through with Burleson. 

She is determined, attentive, inspiring, in control, but full of love. She’ll almost feel like a second mother to a lot of East students. Having kids of her own makes her experienced as she knows the “phases”, or the changes kids go through during their school years. There are many students and coworkers here at East that connect with Burleson daily and they are comfortable enough to be vulnerable with her.  

“She is not afraid to go deep into the recesses of a person’s heart,” East High School Associate Principal, Steven Leib said. 

To illustrate, Burleson holds small groups where students engage in deep conversations about real issues of importance to them.  While huddled around a puzzle, Burleson is helping us recognize the differences between feelings and thoughts. Students might ask, “How do these affect my actions?”

“She is not afraid to go deep into the recesses of a person’s heart,”

— East High School Associate Principal, Steven Leib

Burleson is an immigrant of 30 years, born and raised in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. She arrived to the United States in 1992. Using her own experiences, Spanish speaking skills, and empathy allow her to build welcoming relationships with the Latino community at East.  

It has been five years since she has gone to the Dominican Republic. Most of her relatives live down there. Her trip was cancelled because of the pandemic.  

“Right before Covid I was going,” Burleson said. When she does visit, she usually stays with her mother. 

She has three adult children, two boys and a girl.  

Burleson is known to be someone you can count on, someone you can go to for advice.  

 “Yeah, I would,” freshman Nayeli Camarillo said. Camarillo is someone you will constantly see in Burleson’s office, holding her accountable for her actions and helping her meet her potential.  She describes her as kind, persistent, and funny. “Kinda mean but in a responsible way,” Camarillo said. 

Although she is new to East, Burleson has become a proud Scarlet. 

“For the first assembly last semester, she went down to Ms. Wellers room to dye her hair and put east stickers on her face,” freshman Alejandra Castillio, Trejo said.  

Leib describes Burleson as passionate, empathetic, and zealous. They are more than just coworkers, they are great friends. They count on each other and make an outstanding team. Both have a relationship with God and connected on that as well. Burleson is always on the go, keeping herself busy. 

“Go go go all day long,” Leib said. 

Burleson is always full of energy, always puts a smile on people’s faces, and works hard at becoming a committed Scarlet and brings East spirit everyday. 

“Yeah, everyday,” East campus monitor, Dontez Adair said.  

Burleson and Adair are very close coworkers. Adair sees how Burleson relates to her students because of her background and the fact that she is bilingual like many East students.  

“She can relate to a lot of kids because she speaks Spanish,” Adair said.