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‘It’s Not Just About Me’

Claudia Cervantes

Why are you interested in working in education?
I came to the United States from Mexico when I was 17 and a senior in high school. My parents didn’t even finish elementary school. My teachers were the ones who guided me and really believed in me. They showed that I have what it takes to succeed. I want to do that for other students who might have come to the country like me and had immigrant parents who didn’t go to school.

What are your career goals?
I want to apply for a PhD program for educational policy. I hope to work for a school district or state agency with an English learners (EL) population. I would really like to get more involved in addressing the needs of these types of students. When I came here from Mexico, I was an EL student. I know they are a special group that has very specific needs, and their needs haven’t been properly met.

Tell us about your internship in Washington, D.C.
I got an internship in D.C. for the summer of 2010. I loved it and stayed there for almost two years. I worked for three months for the Department of Education and then I transferred to the Department of Commerce in the Census Bureau as a training specialist. The Census Bureau is a huge bureau. I didn’t know all the things that the census does. It’s not just one survey every 10 years. They’re doing surveys every year and collecting different types of data. I helped provide training for the 12 bureau offices on how to use the data, how to collect the data, and how to use the software that the census was approving and updating.

What was one of the turning points in your education?
I was a student assistant in the President’s Office, and President Ortiz suggested I go to the HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) conference as a university ambassador. Our job was to promote the university and get more information about HACU. I found out about the D.C. internship through HACU.

Dr. Ortiz has become my mentor. He’s just like a uncle or like a second dad for me. He was the one who was pushing me. I didn’t want to take the internship in D.C. because I was afraid. I had never been outside California. He was the one who pushed me to take this. “You’re not going to regret it,” he said. He gave me the courage to take the opportunity to travel across the country.

He told me, “When you’re a Latina or Mexican or a minority, it’s not just about you. It’s about the people who come after you. Just think about the people you can help when you go beyond your bachelor’s and credential and get your master’s.” That stayed with me. Whenever I’m tired, I remember it’s not just for me, it’s not just about me. I think about my little sister and all the EL students I’ve worked with when I was substituting. I also think about my nieces and nephews.

Awards, Accolades & Campus Involvement
President’s Council Scholar
McPhee Scholar for the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences in 2008
PIE scholarship winner
Golden Key Honor Society
Pi Sigma Alpha – Political science honor society

Published on September 11, 2014

Impact Map

Explore Impact Map

The Impact Map shows how Cal Poly Pomona alumni are making a difference in Southern California and around the country. Explore the map or share your own impact.

Explore the map

Submit Your Story