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Rockefeller Fellow is Future Teacher

UCR Student Selected to Receive Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship

Aspiring teacher Irma Leaños is one of 25 undergraduates receiving fellowships from a nationwide pool.

(October 26, 2006)

Irma Leanos

Irma Leanos

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — UC Riverside fourth-year liberal studies major, Irma Leaños, 21, has received the highly competitive Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship for Aspiring Teachers of Color for 2006-07.

These fellowships are awarded annually to outstanding minority undergraduate students in the arts and sciences wishing to pursue graduate degrees in education and to teach in American public elementary or secondary schools.

Leaños’ college studies concentrate on sociology with a minor in education. She is one of 25 students selected to the fellowship from a nationwide pool of 27 participating colleges or universities. Fellows can tap into as much as $22,100 to help finance graduate studies and internships over five years.

The current round of fellowships began over the summer and will continue until after the fellows have completed three years of teaching in the public schools. Participating institutions were selected on the basis of the overall quality of the institution's undergraduate programs, its record of commitment to the education of minorities, and its stated goals to improve teaching in the public schools.

Leaños’ is an immigrant’s story, raised the first six years of her life in the small mountain town of El Carrizal, southeast of Puerto Vallarta, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. At age 6, she came to California with her mother and four brothers to join their father and husband in Anaheim.

“I’m very fortunate to have parents who instilled in me the importance of education,” she said. When her frustration with learning English became an obstacle to attending school, her mother explained that the whole family was going through the same experience with her.

“She packed my lunch and sent me to school anyway,” Leaños said. “I thank her everyday for doing that. She never gave up on me because she believed that in spite of everything, I would get through it.”

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund fellowship seeks to call more attention to public school teaching as a fulfilling career and to provide new talent to those public schools with the greatest need of excellent minority teachers. The fellowship also seeks to retain these teachers and help them develop into leaders who will be agents for educational improvement.

UCR’s Graduate School of Education (GSOE) has participated in the program since 1991 and Leaños’ selection brings the number of UCR awardees to 14. Leaños graduated in 2003 from Santiago High School in Garden Grove, Calif.

UCR undergraduate minority students in the arts and sciences who are in their third year and plan to pursue a graduate degree in education upon graduation are eligible to apply during fall quarter. Students must identify a mentor, a member of UCR’s faculty or staff, who will be responsible for assisting the fellow in planning a summer project, for providing supervision as needed during the final year of undergraduate study, and for offering career guidance.

UCR orientations for next year’s prospective fellows are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., Nov. 6 in Sproul Hall, room 1215. For more information about the program or the orientations, contact Patricia Gill at (951) 827-3753 or by email at

The Rockefeller Fellowship for Students of Color Entering the Teaching Profession includes a $2,500 stipend for the junior year summer teaching project. During their senior year, fellows will pursue their educational interests through further study, research, or volunteer teaching. Following graduation, fellows will enroll in full-time one-or two-year graduate teacher education programs that lead to credentialing and a master’s degree in education. They will receive up to $16,000 for approved graduate programs. Upon completion of their graduate work, fellows will begin teaching in K-12 schools.

For those who have incurred debts in pursuing their undergraduate education, the Fellowships will assist with loan repayment of up to $1,200 annually for each of the first three years of continuous teaching.

    Participating colleges and Universities:
  • Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts

  • Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

  • City University of New York, City College

  • Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

  • Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

  • Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

  • Howard University, Washington, D.C.

  • Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi

  • Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana

  • Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles, California

  • Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio

  • Pace University, New York, New York

  • Pomona College, Claremont, California

  • Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

  • Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia

  • Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

  • Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas

  • University of California, Riverside, California

  • University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • University of Saint Thomas, Houston, Texas

  • Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

  • Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut

  • Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts

  • Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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