Eliza CortesEliza Cortes is the recipient of the 2015 Minority Scholarship. Photo courtesy of Eliza Cortes.

It may seem impossible to have one-on-one teacher-student interactions in a classroom of 50, but when Eliza Cortes saw a teacher with the ability to do this she felt inspired to do the same. Her desire to influence individuals inspired her to enter the McKay School’s Counseling Psychology Program.

Cortes has received the 2015 Minority Scholarship from the Utah Association of School Psychology. Each year the organization issues one scholarship to a qualified Utah student. Since 2013 three students in the McKay School have been chosen.

While working on her undergraduate degree in special education, Cortes student taught at Bridges Nebo Transition Center. “When I did my student teaching, the classroom I was in had 50 students,” Cortes said. “It was really hard for the teacher to set aside one-on-one time for each student, but she always found a way, which was awesome.”

The students ranged from age 18 to 22. Those who were high functioning, such as those with Asperger’s, would spend some of their day in the workplace. If the students ran into issues at work, they could reach out for support through the teacher.

“The students would come back and say, ‘Hey, I have a problem and I don’t know what to do at my job,’ and she would say, ‘Okay, let’s sit down and let’s talk about it,’” Cortes explained. “She always helped the students and handled things in a great way.”

Seeing this teacher take individual time with each student, Cortes realized she wanted to have more one-on-one interactions as part of her work. After talking with Blake Hansen, one of her professors, she decided to pursue her graduate degree in counseling psychology. While Cortes has not decided which direction she wants to take with her degree, she likes the idea of working as a school psychologist.

“In the school settings kids can get overlooked,” Cortes said. “I want to be able to help those kids who get overlooked. I want to go that extra mile, and I want to help students get what they really deserve.”

Writer: Lindsey Williams

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922