Name: Michael Cruz
CUNY College: The City College of New York
Affiliations: Skadden Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies; Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy
Summer 2014 Internship: U.S. Committee for Immigrants and Refugees
Graduation Date: June, 2016; Bachelor of Arts: Political Science; minor in Public Policy
What I Know for Sure —
“We think we have only one direct path to walk.
But things happen just the way they are supposed to.”
Michael Cruz grew up in the Bronx, inside a big and happy family. When the time arrived, he went directly into college just as his family had eagerly anticipated. When he did not discover his life’s calling there, he left the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) to simply do life—which meant getting a job and working. Several retail and sales jobs later, he realized he wanted a lot more out of life. Since college seemed the way to get it, he enrolled at Hostos Community College (HCC) and eventually settled at The City College of New York (CCNY) to study political science and public policy. Michael likes people, and all along the way he was making connections with staff and students to learn and share ideas. “Like-minded students hang out and talk to one another,” he says. “I also connected with college administrators and looked for mentors. I had questions, and I didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I thought ‘this is about my development as a student.’” In time, Michael had met Jay Hershenson, CUNY’s Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Board Secretary, and also Frank D. Sanchez, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.
It also helped that Michael believes in people and paying his own benefits forward. Another student had told him about the Skadden Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies (where he is currently enrolled), so he often shares news about special programs and financial scholarship opportunities with fellow students. As a member of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), and University Student Senate (USS), he performs in leadership roles for his school that have furthered his interest in public service. In fact, the timing and emergence of Arizona law SB1070 (called the anti-immigration law) helped bolster his resolve to participate in immigration reform. “I want to impact public policy. There’s a lot of injustice, and I want to help students–especially undocumented students who are attending school but not able to work. I want to learn more about what I can do on a larger scale. For example, right now it seems nothing is happening with the DREAM Act.”
Michael credits the diversity of New York City and his role in student government for his ability to connect with people from all walks of life. He has been to conferences and student leadership summits in Albany, New York and has also attended the Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caucus with CUNY executives and students. Service-learning and study abroad activities have taken him to Brazil (2011); The Dominican Republic (2012); and Korea (2013), which included a fun, one-day jaunt with a friend to Japan. This spring, he is packing his bags for Washington, D.C. where he will room at George Washington University as an intern with the U.S. Committee for Immigrants and Refugees, and also prepare to take the Law School Aptitude Test.
Michael plans to stay in touch with many of his CUNY mentors like Dr. Felix Matos Rodriguez, President of Hostos Community College, Kafui Kouakou, the former USS chairperson and Jason Libfeld of the CUNY Council of Student Life Directors (CCSLD), who all helped him to successfully navigate college. They comprise a network that helped him get comfortable with the complexities of campus life—from admissions, the registrar and financial aid offices to the academic counselor’s chair. “It’s true, some staff people are more helpful than others,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Maybe it’s because the line never ends for these folks that have to answer all the questions.’” He agrees that social media can be a useful tool for sharing information. “I use Facebook and LinkedIn for everything. But nothing else. Too much social media contributes to a short attention span. It can all become a bunch of sound bytes.” He is keeping an open mind to teaching law or running for office, and believes it is okay to switch plans and paths at any time. It all depends, he says. New events and ideas come up. “We think we have only one direct path to walk. But things happen just the way they are supposed to.”