A New York City native, Cristina Urena is driven by the belief that every child deserves an excellent education and control over their future.

Cristina is a first-generation college student, raised by a single mother who immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic. She was nominated by her peers to join the Albert G. Oliver Program, which serves to prepare high-achieving minority students for attendance at prestigious colleges. Attending Columbia University, she became even more aware of the academic achievement gap between minority students like herself and their affluent peers.

Inspired by former educators and determined to help close the academic achievement gap, Cristina joined Teach For America in Houston, Texas. As a teacher at a turnaround campus, her students performed well above average in the district. She was selected to hold several leadership roles, such as training incoming teachers to the district and leading a cohort of data analysts through the district’s Career Pathways. Cristina had an even broader impact on students by becoming a Teacher Specialist at a turnaround campus. Her teachers made great gains, exceeding the state standards and impacting the future of hundreds of students.

Cristina will found a charter school in Houston, Texas, that will transform an entire community by ensuring students graduate from top universities.