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MAEC Internship – Graciela Cortez

MAEC has been lucky to have a thriving internship program with dedicated, enthusiastic interns who share our passion for education equity. In fact, some have permanently joined our MAEC team full-time! We interviewed MAEC intern Graciela Cortez on what education equity means to her and to learn more about her experiences with MAEC.

Tell us about yourself! 

Hello all! My name is Graciela A. Cortez and I served as an evaluation intern at the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium in fall 2021. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Houston, where I studied philosophy and political science. During my time in school, I was a part of the Honor’s College Model UN team, a contributor to the Houston History magazine, and a research assistant in the political science department, where I helped to build a dataset for international elections. I have been privileged to study a wide range of political topics, and I have discovered that my interest and passion are in education and in access to education. 

Why do you choose to work in education equity? 

Growing up, I thought all schools were the same. I believed every student had the same experience and access to resources. It wasn’t until much later in my academic career that I saw the discrepancies amongst schools and the consequences it had for its students. I decided to pursue a career in education equity because I want to be a part of the effort to build better systems for all students, particularly for minority, low-income, and first-generation students like myself.  

I count myself lucky for graduating from high school and university. There were many times in my education where I felt overwhelmed and lost. Looking back, I recognize that I needed a lot more assistance than some of my peers. The teachers at my schools went above and beyond to help me where they could, but without built-in support and resources, it was impossible to help all of the students in need. Equity work is crucial if we want to fill in, and eventually erase, all of the gaps in the education system.  

What does education equity mean to you? 

To me, education equity means providing support in all the ways needed so that any cultural or socio-economic factors that correlate with poor academic success are minimized, if not effectively removed. Every student deserves tailored attention and support so they can perform as best they can.  

 What did you do as an intern at MAEC?

As an evaluation intern at MAEC, most of my tasks centered around needs-assessments projects, helping different school districts and organizations figure out where they could implement or improve equity practices. I gained valuable experience facilitating focus groups, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, preparing presentation decks for stakeholders, creating and distributing surveys, writing reports, and conducting webinars.  

What was a highlight of your experience at MAEC?

The entirety of my internship was incredible! Our weekly team meetings and staff huddles made my virtual internship feel warm and personal. Every task assigned was meaningful and helped build my skill set and confidence. One project that especially built those skill sets culminated in a report I wrote on education equity in Puerto Rico. We had a lot of resources rich in anecdotal and quantitative data, and though I wanted to include it all in my report, I couldn’t make it fit! There were lots of revisions and feedback to incorporate (I had to re-read a lot of source material too!) but each time I went back to the report, the writing got clearer. In all, that project helped refine my evaluation skills and made me a stronger researcher and writer.

How do you see this internship factoring into your work after MAEC?

My time at MAEC solidified my decision to work in education equity. Moving forward, I hope to join a team that allows me to exercise and expand on the skills learned during this internship. I leave MAEC with a deeper understanding of the multi-faceted approach that education equity requires and with an eagerness to continue working toward better outcomes for all students.  

The MAEC blog is designed to engage hearts and minds of school and district leaders across the country to engage in issues that you have identified as being essential in education. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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