As a child of farm workers, Laura Cortez had to face challenges that were often different than her classmates growing up.
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome was constantly moving schools as a child, especially because English is my second language,” said Cortez. “Moving from school to school made me fall behind. Because of that reason, I’ve had gaps in my learning development that I’ve slowly had to bridge on my own.”
This year, Cortez was one of two teaching credential students who were recognized as recipients of this year’s Mary Stuart Rogers Scholarship at Stanislaus State, which honored 14 undergraduate students as well. This is Cortez’s second year being named a Rogers Scholar.
“Being a Rogers Scholar for a consecutive year means a lot to me,” said Cortez. “I feel very blessed for this opportunity, as well as honored because in a way through this scholarship I represent the community. I am hardworking and I never give up, whether I succeed or fail. It’s a mindset I’ve always had and I get that attitude from my parents.”
Since its inception 25 years ago, the Mary Stuart Rogers Scholarship has awarded over $2.9 million to more than 550 students with scholarships ranging from $3,000 for undergraduates to $3,500 for students like Cortez who are in teaching credential programs.
Cortez and the other recipients of this year’s scholarships were honored at a luncheon earlier this month. Among this year’s recipients were Terra Edwood, who — despite becoming a single mother at 14 years old and encountering personal challenges that once got in the way of her education — managed to enroll at San Joaquin Delta College and transfer to Stanislaus State, where she plans to earn a doctorate in psychology, and Raby Soonyoung, who was born into a poor family in South Korea and suffered abuse until she ran away when she was 15 years old. She eventually earned enough money to come to the United States, where she learned English, earned her GED and enrolled at Modesto Junior College before transferring to Stanislaus State to study psychology and mathematics.
“Everybody deserves to be happy and to have hope like I do now,” said Soonyoung.
Cortez currently works for the Mini-Corps program as a tutor, where she assists and supports migrant students who are at risk. She hopes to become a high school Spanish teacher who will motivate her students to go to college during “those tough teenage years.”
“My desire to serve others grew by serving my community. I’ve always enjoyed helping out during community or church events. I can also say that my desire to serve others also grew when I started my job as a Mini-Corps tutor. There I discovered the connection I had with my migrant students,” said Cortez. “Being able to support them and seeing them grow academically brought joy to my heart.”