Meet Hazel De La Cruz, Smith College '20

This profile is part of a series highlighting participants of the Urban Education Initiative, the umbrella program for Project Coach at Smith College.

Pictured: Hazel (front row on the right) with the rest of the Western Massachusetts Cohort

Hazel De La Cruz ‘20 just finished a Fellowship at Veritas Preparatory Charter School in Springfield, MA. At Veritas, she witnessed major change in one student’s mindset, and got an insight into the life of a teacher at a local Western Mass charter school.

Smith College (SC): Tell us about yourself. Why did you apply for the Urban Ed Scholars program?

Hazel: My name is Hazel De La Cruz, I am a sophomore at Smith College and an Education and Child Studies Major. I applied for the Urban Ed Scholars Program because it was an opportunity to see if I truly wanted to be a teacher, if teaching was the kind of career I want since it was just this year being a teacher was an interest in mind. In the end I truly wanted to be a teacher with bigger goals for myself.

SC: Tell us about the school, your teacher, and what you did in the internship.

HDLC: The school I interned at was Veritas Prep, a charter school in Springfield, Massachusetts. My mentor teacher is a 5th grade teacher who has been with the school for about 6 years and I am truly grateful to be under her wing my entire time of the internship. My role in the 5th grade classroom was to act as support, [to] help students with reading comprehension one on one, or with math. When I had free time I would go visit the other classrooms and meet other teachers to talk about their experience with the school, [to] have a better understanding of charter schools.

SC: Tell us a highlight memory from your time in the classroom this January?

HDLC: One of the biggest highlights of January was working with a 5th grade student in particular who really disliked math, but really enjoyed reading. She would feel really unmotivated to do her math work and always said, when I asked her something, ‘I don’t know Miss.” My mentor teacher told me to try and make her laugh before working with her and that she will come through. With that in mind, I made her laugh and after the end of doing math together, she changed from “ I don't know Miss,” to “I don't know--wait I shouldn’t say that, I do know” and smiled. Even though we had just met for that math packet, having her mindset change was very huge for me. So it was nice having a small breakthrough.

SC: What surprised you the most?

HDLC: I have been surprised a lot at Veritas. What surprised me were the teachers, especially my mentor teachers. While they uphold class expectations they also look out for their students’ well being. Also, the direct contact they have with each of their parents. The teachers would directly contact parents and I think that kind of relationship between parent and teacher is important for a student’s development and growth in school.

SC: How do you think the experience will impact your future thinking and plans?

HDLC: The experience has me wanting to know what more schools are like in different parts of the country and the world. Hopefully at some point, I will get to visit other schools and understand that experience, then compare it to my own experience at school.

SC: What big idea, project, adventure has your attention?: What’s your next play going forward here at Smith?

HDLC: I think where I want to be later in the future may take a while to reach because there is so much that I want to experience and observe in schools. I think a goal in mind would be to visit as many schools as possible across the country. Maybe to understand how starting a school works would be a good first step and understanding more about education policies.

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