MariaEsther Izquierdo-Hemmen,
  • MSW

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Born in Puerto Rico, Maria grew up in South America where she spent her childhood and adolescence continually readjusting to new environments as she bounced around different homes, schools, and living situations. Amidst the hardships, her personal journey had taught her something crucial: we are resilient. This insight gave her the freedom to dream in something bigger than the environment she was born into. Maria realized that her individual story empowered her to stand up for herself and take action and she learned how to move forward with courage, in spite of the weight of her past.

In August of 2002, at the age of 20, Maria and her little girl left South America and moved to San Diego, California. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the University of California San Diego, Maria worked with refugees and asylum seekers during a yearlong internship with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Driven by a passion for helping others as a result of her experiences, post-graduation Maria focused on working with adolescents and children placed in the foster system.  In 2012, Maria earned her Master of Social Work with an emphasis in clinical mental health from San Diego State University after which she began her professional career in pursuit of opportunities that allowed her to work with youth and families. Maria continued her career in a variety of social work environments, including administrative, forensic, school, clinical, mental and behavioral health.

With this knowledge and her passion for social services, she honored her lifelong dream and launched an organization dedicated to youth. Mending Matters was founded in 2014 and started by offering programs on two high school campuses in San Diego. Mending Matters is an organization dedicated to engaging youth through relevant and consistent mental health services that meet students where they are at, both emotionally and physically -at their school campuses. The programs educate students on mental health while offering them resources and skills. Mending Matters’ alternative-to-suspension programs build communities on school campuses that embrace the students’ challenges and goals.  Students turn to Mending Matters to engage, support and connect with each other.

Today, Maria’s vision is to bring Mending Matters’ programs to every high school. Never satisfied with complacency, she strives to continually evolve and develop an organization that best meets the needs of high schools and their students. Mending Matters is committed to making a difference in this world and strives daily to leave an impact on the youth they encounter.

Contact Info


  • Therapists can only be reached during the hours of 7.30AM-3.30PM. In the event you are feeling unsafe or require immediate medical or psychiatric assistance, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also call the Access & Crisis Line for 24/7 assistance at (888) 724-7240.