Giving Back By Going Home

Born and raised in Southern California’s Inland Empire, Teacher Education alumna Robyn Iraheta had two things handed to her early in life: adversity and opportunity.

Her family faced many struggles when she was a child growing up in her San Bernardino County community. After her father passed away when she was seven, Robyn’s mother had to work two full-time jobs just to keep the family afloat.

“If you want a different kind of life, you have to work hard,” she told Robyn. “And education is going to be your way to change everything in this family.”

Robyn listened and worked hard. Her years as a UCLA undergrad were paid with the sale of a piece of property that her grandparents left to her mom. By the time she arrived at Claremont Graduate University, determined to thrive in the university’s Teacher Education program, there was nothing left to sell.

But a university fellowship provided her with critical support. The university also provided her with something else just as valuable: an academic family and a mentor who changed her life, School of Educational Studies Dean DeLacy Ganley.

Ganley and her team embrace a teaching mission that moves far beyond the classroom to embrace and advocate for social justice and educational equity.

That mission shaped Robyn’s experience, and after graduation she decided to return home to serve the students in her county. Today, as a middle school demonstration teacher, she is making a dramatic difference. In fact, over the course of a single year, she helped her students’ proficiency standards jump from 21% to 50%.

At the start of every new school year, Robyn brings two things to the classroom: the leadership skills she honed at CGU and the lessons she learned as a girl who was determined to succeed.

“When I feel like things aren’t working out, when things aren’t as accessible as they should be to the students in my class, I kind of just reach for my memories of what I learned from DeLacy,” said Robyn. “I’ll think, ‘What else can I do? What else can I provide to help them be more successful?’ ”

Her CGU experienced has shaped her life in other ways as well. Not only did she and her fiancée (also an alumnus) decide to hold their wedding on campus, when Robyn’s daughter was born, there was only one choice for her middle name: DeLacy.

Why? For Robyn, the choice was simple.

“I always just thought that the world needs more DeLacys,” she says.

Student and teacher in classroom
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