United Way

Mari Pérez-Dowling

President and CEO
(661) 834-1980
Email: mari.p@uwkern.org

Mari was born in Ensenada, Baja California Mexico. Immigrated to Porterville, California at the age of 13. She enrolled at Porterville High School where she attended 9th to 11th grade then did her senior year at Mt. Miguel High School in Spring Valley, Ca. Mari was accepted at San Diego State University, and became the first member of her family to ever attend a 4-year university. She graduated with a B.A. in Spanish Language & Literature and was accepted into the Master’s program where she was able to teach beginning Spanish classes. She got her first job in education at Shafter High School and that changed her life. She then got married with a professor from her own university and had to beautiful babies – Monica and Sebastian. She then decided to go for her Master’s degree in Bilingual Education and traveled to Mexico to complete her program.

At this time a position was offered at the local Telemundo TV station for a community affairs show and her media career began. She worked as a television broadcaster for two years and then took a full time teaching job at Wasco High school. After 4 years of teaching she’s offered a position as Executive Producer and Radio Host at the Radio Campesina Network where she covered three western states in NPR – public radio in Spanish. This job brought her great opportunities to grow professionally such as covering the Democratic Convention in 2008 in Denver, CO; and interviewing first lady Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, First lady Michelle Obama and attending 2008 Obama’s Presidential Inauguration in Washington DC. She then took a new adventure in radio news production and was selected as one of 4 journalists to represent the United States in Peru. Mari worked and covered news from a natural disaster area in the north of Peru and broadcasted daily her radio show “Punto de Vista” live for two weeks. After this experience, she participated in an Environmental Journalism fellowship at Stanford university.

Later, she took a new role in the nonprofit world and developed programs in ESL and Civics for Spanish speakers and farm laborers. A year later, Bright House Networks, a nationwide cable company hired her as their Multicultural Communication Manager representing the Western Region where she was also in charge of her own radio show “Nuestras Voces”. Univision Communication Inc, then offered a position as Director of Community Affairs and Marketing for three local stations; and as host of her own show called “Kern Contigo” and national morning segments of “Despierta Bakersfield”

She joined the United Way of Kern County family in 2017 as Director of Marketing and Development. She was then promoted to Interim President & CEO in April of 2018, and in November 20, 2018 she became the permanent President and CEO of the organization.

As President and CEO of UWKC, Mari has served as Co-Chair of the Public Policy Committee for United Ways of California for 2 years (2018-2020), leading local UW’s to the state Capitol to advocate for bills and issues that benefit local communities.

At the 2018 New CEO Forum at the United Way Headquarters in Virginia, Mari was selected among 81 new U.S. CEO’s to serve as Spokesperson for the National Magazine, Chronicle of Philanthropy.

During her last three years at UW, Mari has transformed her team and greatly impacted the community in the areas of education, health and financial stability. Mari has been very active in the areas of education, from pre-k to higher education. She has presented at several conferences advocating for literacy and quality education for our children and youth.

Mari has been nominated twice for the city’s prestigious Beautiful Bakersfield Humanitarian Award, due to her dedication to advocate for education and bring the best to her community.

In March 15, 2021 Mari was honored by California State Assembly Member Rudy Salas for District 32 with the “Woman Of The Year Award”, due to her long positive influential trajectory in this community and for being the first Latina to hold a CEO position for a local United Way chapter.

Mari is a woman of faith. She believes God has a path and a plan for her, she follows the signs and works with passion, dedication and discipline to help others and make this world a better place for everyone, especially for our children.

Our Focus

Early Childhood Literacy

Financial Stability

Homelessness and Hunger

GET INVOLVED
We are all part of this community and together we can make it succeed. At United Way of Kern County we believe that UNITED we can make change happen... one day at a time.
Sign up for our newsletter