TAMIU Student Selected for Prestigious ‘Teach for America’   
Posted: 4/17/14

TAMIU Student Selected for
Prestigious ‘Teach for America’

Teach for America (TFA) has welcomed Texas A&M International University student Oscar Cortez into its prestigious education program.

Every year thousands of applicants from the nations’ top universities submit their resumes and qualifications for a chance to join one of the most influential education organizations in America. This year Cortez, who graduates in May, joins the selected few to work towards enhancing the academic careers of children nationwide.

“It’s a very rewarding experience and I’m looking forward to it and I’m very humbled and appreciative that I was able to get in,” expressed Cortez.

Oscar Cortez

Oscar Cortez

TFA has worked with over 3 million students across the country, providing them the tools necessary to ensure children in low-income communities have the opportunities to succeed in the classroom.

Cortez explained that the TFA is a national non-profit organization whose main mission is to bridge the inequity present in education. The Laredo native said he believes he understands education inequity.

“As a Laredoan, I always felt that LISD schools were more disadvantaged than UISD schools,” he expressed, “… I don’t mean specifically teachers, but we are talking about lack of funding, resources, and facilities that are not up to par with others.”

As a freshman at TAMIU, Cortez said he experienced what inequity in schools can do to students that are suddenly faced with a new perspective on education and find themselves among other students with different academic backgrounds.

“My freshman year I witnessed this inequity first-hand. I’m a Biology major and taking General Chemistry I immediately felt that I was not as prepared as UISD kids. I felt they picked up the information quickly and were predisposed to study better,” he recalled.

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Oscar Cortez, a Texas A&M International University biology student, was selected to join
Teach for America (TFA) and its prestigious education program. Cortez, who graduates
in May, joins the selected few the nation to work towards enhancing the academic careers of children nationwide. TFA has worked with over 3 million students across the country,
providing them the tools necessary to ensure children in low-income communities have the opportunities to succeed in the classroom.

Since its inception in 1990, Teach for America has worked with over 33,000 participants committed to teaching and improving students’ futures nationwide. Last year, TAMIU student Stephanie Hernandez was selected for TFA and assigned to Indiana.

“This program is going to allow me to help facilitate the transition of students to college in a better way, so that they can remain competitive and they won’t feel overwhelmed like I did,” explained Cortez.

 In 2013, TFA ranked #60 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. All of which have made it one of the most competitive among university graduates. Because of its high demand status, the grueling application and interview process had Cortez losing faith in his ability to make it into the program.

“I was excited to think what it would be like to be a TFA member, and I was anxious because I wanted to know if I got in and at times I was demotivated because the process was so lengthy. It really made me feel, as this was it...This was the transition from me being a kid to becoming an adult,” he explained.

Cortez’s passion for teaching and helping students came from his mother who has been an educator for many years and from his older sister Christine Cortez, who was also accepted into the Teach for America program in 2010.

“What also made me want to go into teaching was my older sister Christine. She is one of the persons I owe the biggest gratitude to. She applied for this, she knew what they were looking for, and she didn’t get help from anybody. She just went in there. She’s a totally different person than I am. She guided me to the same or as much impact as my TAMIU mentors, Dr. Mark Menaldo and Dr. Karyn Miller did. She was the prime motivating factor for me wanting to join Teach for America.”

The TFA program requires its participants to fulfill two-year teaching commitments in schools where children face higher rates of poverty. After fulfilling his two-year requirement in San Antonio, Cortez plans to attend law school, eventually move back to Laredo and continue to help out his community.

“My community has been very kind to me, whether or not they know it or have done something directly for me; I enjoy this town, my family is in this town, so I want to give back to my community. I am very proud of who I am and where I come from,” Cortez concluded.

For more information, please contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at 326.2180. University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.


Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu

5201 University Boulevard, Laredo, TX 78041-1900 Work956.326.2100