Cirilo Cortez (PhD ‘12) and Lisceth Cruz (PhD ‘13) Advocating for Access and Opportunity
August 28, 2012
Cirilo Cortez almost didn’t make it to college. Though he arrived
in Kern County, California, from Michoacan, Mexico, when he was
three, his status as an “English learner” well into his teens
trapped him in high school classes that did not meet university
requirements, threatening to hold him back.
Armed with parents who put a high value on education and
bilingualism, Lisceth Cruz arrived in California from Mexico City
at the age of 15. Today, she fights for the rights of other
immigrants to get a college education.
Both Cruz and Cortez are PhD students in the UC Davis School
of Education. Both focus their research on Latinos in
Cortez, a Gates Millenium Scholar, is committed to serving
college students like him through the MESA (Mathematics,
Engineering, Science Achievement) program at a local community
college. His dissertation documented a successful mentoring
program for Latino youth in a local school district.
In addition to her work as a graduate student, Cruz is a leader
in the fight for giving undocumented California high school
graduates the right to in-state tuition for college and access to
financial aid. Her own experience as a Latina immigrant and her
research on the role of parental engagement in the lives of first
generation college students drive her to stand up for others.
“This whole issue is highly politicized, but the truth is these
students are the valedictorians of their schools, they are high
achievers,” says Cruz.