After settling in Brooklyn with her family, she attended Midwood High School, where she met helpful teachers who helped guide her to college at SUNY Purchase. There, she also found educators who prepared her to graduate from college.
After returning to the city, Cortez worked as a homebound teacher for Catholic Charities, where she discovered her passion for teaching. After graduating from NYU, she became a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing.
“I served the deaf and their parents for 35 years,” she said.
Cortez was also a UFT chapter leader for a decade, and served as vice president of the Ditmas Park Association, helping to organize events to bring the community together.
Earlier this year, Cortez threw her hat in the ring for the City Council seat in District 40, which represents Flatbush, Ditmas Park and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
“I see that as the next step for me,” she said. “I have the time, energy and the support of the community.”
When COVID struck in March, Cortez transitioned her campaign online. Her team created a website and social media pages. She has also been writing a weekly letter to her community about local issues.
Cortez has designed a postcard and poster, which she is handing out at different parts of the district.
“I want people to know me so they will remember my name,” she said, noting that ranked choice voting will be in effect in 2021.
Nine other candidates are vying for the seat, but Cortez believes she is the best person to represent District 40.
“I have always worked for my community,” she said. “That’s my model of life, to make sure my community is doing well.”