How TGR Foundation Empowered Andrés Cuamani’s Journey
Andrés Cuamani still remembers his first day at the TGR Learning Lab fondly. A 5th grader at Dr. Peter Marshall Elementary School, Andrés spent a week at the Anaheim-based learning lab studying forensic science with his classmates. From surveying clues at a mock crime scene to studying fingerprinting techniques, Andrés experienced a different kind of learning. But what he really left with was the realization that there were countless opportunities awaiting him.
From 7th– 12thgrade, Andrés was a regular in the building, taking after-school classes from aerospace engineering to golf, and forging lasting, impactful relationships with the teachers. At the age of 16, Andrés became a volunteer at the learning lab and soon after, he became an official employee, landing his first job as a golf range attendant. When he realized his passion for teaching coupled with a desire to lend support to students like himself, Andrés took on an added role in Academic Support, a job he still has today.
In the Spring of 2020, Andrés will graduate from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Spanish and his sights set on becoming a 12thgrade Spanish teacher. Andrés opened up about his passion for teaching and the mark he hopes to leave on the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
TGR Foundation: What is your passion and why?
Andrés Cuamani: My passion is teaching. This doesn’t necessarily mean teaching in a classroom setting, but rather connecting with students, helping them understand a new concept or idea and encouraging them to push themselves. This passion stems from all the help I received from the TGR Learning Lab staff when I was a young middle and high school student attending classes there. The teachers saw my potential and made sure they supported me. I remember fondly one staff member in particular named Jose, who made sure I would finish my homework every day. Now that I’m an adult, I see myself helping students in the same way I was helped. I feel that it’s what is owed to them; it’s something that they don’t get.
TGRF: What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
AC: My greatest challenge has been balancing school, work and family. The way I overcome it is by having a set goal. My goal is to be able to provide a better life for my parents and three younger siblings, and this has kept me levelheaded. Knowing that the goal hasn’t been accomplished keeps me motivated to keep going.
TGRF: When do you feel most empowered?
AC: I feel most empowered when I know I have helped someone. This can be something small like a favor, but also something that’s life-changing. I want to be able to help as many people as I can.
TGRF: How has your journey been shaped by education?
AC: Education has opened many doors that have helped me get to where I am today. Not only by teaching me about different subjects, but also by putting me in contact with teachers and mentors who have guided me throughout my life. These people have helped me get to where I am today. As I reflect back, one of the first mentors I had as a young middle-schooler was Roman Gonzales, the golf director at the TGR Learning Lab. He introduced me to the game, but he did more than that. Roman helped me grow into the man I am today. He taught me good work ethic and made sure I was accountable for my actions. Later when I was hired by the learning lab as the range attendant he became my boss and would still teach me things about responsibility and accountability. He went on to be a very important person in my life – and he still is. When I got to high school, you could always find me at the learning lab in academic support. I would do my homework, but I would also talk to the staff members and they would hear me out. Sometimes I just needed to vent, and I was able to do that there. The lab became my second home, where I felt I could really be myself. I was supported and I felt like the teachers cared about me. They got to know me and would always ask how I was doing. It is the little things that can go a long way. I realized how important that was for me, and I am always trying to build those same bonds with the students I work with today at the TGR Learning Lab.
TGRF: How are you using your education and experiences to empower other students like you?
AC: I let students know that education is the key to success. I want to make sure that every student has access to the resources necessary to pursue their education, whether it be a traditional education or a trade. Education has the power to change lives, and that is something that needs to be shared within my community. I am just the guide, helping the students become the future leaders of their community.
Redefining what it means to be a champion.
TGR Learning Lab STEM and college- access programs are funded through support from TGR Live Events and our generous donors. Join us to Empower The Journey of more students like Andrés in this season of giving. With a $41K match from our Board of Governors, all donations made on Giving Tuesday, December 3, through the end of the year will be matched, dollar for dollar. Click here to learn more and donate today.