Champion Spotlight: Andres Cuamani
Andres Cuamani first discovered the TGR Learning Lab in fifth grade and spent a week in the day program studying forensic science. When he became old enough to participate in the after-school program, he dove right in and took an array of classes from aerospace engineering to golf. Aside from discovering the many different career paths in STEM, what Andres valued most was the impactful relationships he had built with the educators.
Through the relationships he built and the impact of TGR Learning Lab programs, Andres found his passion for education and wanted to turn it into a career path. At the age of 16, he decided to start volunteering at the TGR Learning Lab and pay his experiences and support forward. He went on to graduate from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish language and literature. He continues to work for TGR Foundation full-time as an Earl Woods Scholar Coordinator and makes an impact on students’ lives every day.
As TGR Foundation celebrated a relaunch in 2022, Andres reflected on his experiences over the last several years.
TGRF: TGR Foundation is reopening the TGR Learning Lab after 16 years, what is your favorite memory?
Andres Cuamani: One of my favorite memories that I have now thinking about this space and seeing academic support is when I had one student who was always a troublemaker. I later found out after he got comfortable with me and we had a closer relationship that he was trying to get kicked out that first week; we didn’t let him get off easy. Now he’s a junior and will eventually be back for College Bound Academy. I’m glad to see that transition, that he’s able to come here and have a home away from home and a spot where he can be safe and vulnerable.
TGRF: How are you using the skills and experiences you gained through TGR Foundation programs?
AC: My parents have blue-collar jobs so when I started things that seem simple now weren’t simple to me then, things like composing an e-mail, dress code – what to wear, what not to wear, even when to get a haircut. I really transitioned in terms of my professional life in the workspace, and I think that those are skills that still carry on.
TGRF: What’s your passion and how are you fulfilling it?
AC: It’s always been education. My mom always taught me when I was young that education would open many doors. I see that through my experiences, and I really want to give back to the students that are coming back and help them fulfill their dreams as well.
TGRF: What advice would you give to other students looking for their passions and purpose?
AC: The biggest advice I have is to keep an open mind and not limit yourself. The TGR Learning Lab instructors and staff members wouldn’t let me limit myself or even sit by myself. Now that’s what I really want to push to students – that they can do as much as they want; they have so many limitless opportunities, and I will always be there to really push them and be that support for them as well.
TGRF: How are you paying your experiences forward? Why?
AC: The why is very easy for me because I’ve always had so much help and support throughout my life because of the TGR Learning Lab and TGR Foundation. There are a lot of gaps that were filled and so I understand the importance of that. It’s not hard for me to give my time back and I’m really trying to do that with students now whether it’s the scholars I work with or with students that are returning; it makes me happy and that’s how I pay it forward. It can be anything whether it’s just asking how their day is going, helping them with college applications or going through financial aid resources.
TGRF: Who have been champions in your life and career path?
AC: I really think about Roman, my former golf instructor and supervisor; he was the one that really first taught me how to be a professional and how to navigate an office space. I was still in high school when I started so it was a little difficult, but he really helped me with my work ethic and being a good professional. I’m very grateful to him for that and Kathy, former TGR Foundation executive and leader, as well because she really gave me the opportunity to use my voice and let me speak out. As a part-time member, I know it’s not as common as it should be, but she let me voice my concerns and took them into account. She really made me feel confident in my opinion and always striving for goals.
At TGR Foundation we believe everyone can be a champion. In this series, we highlight champions in our community from educators, volunteers and corporate partners to students lifting as they climb.
Visit TGRFoundation.org/champions to learn more about our programs’ impact and ways to get involved.