Outstanding Islander Graduate Samantha De La Cruz ’22 Earns B.S. in Elementary Education-Bilingual Specialization

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As a bilingual Texan who spent seven of her formative years in Mexico, Samantha De La Cruz understands the challenges first-generation Hispanic students face in achieving educational success. 

As a child, De La Cruz returned to the United States as a Spanish speaker and enrolled in Corpus Christi-area schools, eventually graduating from Tuloso-Midway High School in 2019. Along the way, De La Cruz saw the impact that bilingual teachers had on her education and life.

“As a bilingual student growing up in Corpus Christi, I saw the students, not just from Mexico, but from South America and other Central American countries as well,” De La Cruz said. “I think the importance of teaching students to have a bilingual foundation sets them up for success.”

The TAMU-CC Office of the Provost has selected De La Cruz as its Outstanding Islander Graduate for the College of Education and Human Development. She will be recognized along with five fellow Outstanding Islander Graduates during the Fall 2022 Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 10 at the American Bank Center.

Teacher, mentor, friend

Samantha De La Cruz '22 was inspired to become a bilingual teacher by her second-grade teacher, Marylu Valdez (right).

For De La Cruz, her second-grade teacher, Marylu Valdez, has served as a role model and mentor throughout her life.

“I came to the U.S. not knowing one word of English. My first year here was very stressful for me. Mrs. Valdez showed me the passion she had for her students and for their education. It made me realize the kind of impact one teacher can have on your life. Ever since then, she has become an important source of support in my educational journey. She currently teaches at Tuloso-Midway Intermediate School; I still talk to her to this day,” De La Cruz said.  

De La Cruz chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with an EC-6 Core Subjects-Bilingual specialization at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi after she obtained an Associate of Arts at Del Mar College.

At the Island University, De La Cruz made the Dean’s List in spring and fall 2021 and in spring 2022. She was a team member and leader at a Whataburger restaurant for four years and has been a recipient of the Whataburger Family Foundation Scholarship since 2019.

“As a first-generation student, I have had to work 40 hours a week to be able to afford my tuition expenses,” De La Cruz said. “It has not been easy but with the support of my family and my advisors, I have been able to accomplish my educational goals. I am grateful for the scholarships and grants I have received to help me financially with my educational expenses.”

Dr. Frank Lucido, TAMU-CC Professor of Bilingual Education/English as a Second Language (ESL)/Multicultural Education, believes that De La Cruz will serve as a great role model and mentor for Hispanic children learning English as a second language as she did through her early education. 

“Samantha is a dedicated young woman with high moral character and integrity,” Lucido said. “She is a shining example of an excellent teacher that has been developed at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.”

As an ESL paraprofessional at Haas Middle School during the 2021-22 school year, De La Cruz assisted bilingual students with translation, definition, and comprehension of questions, words, and lessons. She also designed unique tutoring schedules for students who had low grade scores in content area subjects and provided tutoring assistance.

“Samantha embodies the qualities of a person who is an Outstanding Islander not just due to her work ethic and heart for students in need, but she is also an outstanding person in the ways she treats the people around her, the work she is in charge of, and the family she loves and lives for,” said Haas English Department Chair Amanda Davis.

De La Cruz credits her mother, Angeles Alejandro, as the inspiration for the success she is enjoying today and dedicates her degree to Alejandro as well.

“My mom is the strongest and most hardworking person I know; she has instilled in her children the importance of education and to always stay humble,” De La Cruz said.

With the support of her family, Samantha is grateful for them and thanks them for continuing to motivate her and believing in her passion in education.

Earning a bachelor’s degree is only the beginning for De La Cruz. She plans to return to the Island to obtain a master’s degree in elementary education and eventually a doctorate in educational leadership.

“I am deeply grateful to my professors, my advisors, and my classmates who have helped me throughout this journey,” De La Cruz said. “I plan to provide students with the resources and tools they need to succeed. I will do my absolute best as a dedicated educator and give back to my community by inspiring the leaders of tomorrow to follow their dreams.”