Persevering, driven and unapologetic. José Cruz is a personification of these attributes; moreover, these characteristics also earned him a unique opportunity as a Journey Scholar.
The route through secondary education is mystifying for all who face it, but the journey is undoubtedly more turbulent for a first-generation student of color seeking an education to prepare for a future in medicine.
Cruz’s experiences in the Journey Scholars program have not only demystified postsecondary education but have also helped those who are alongside him. The program allows for invaluable connections that foster a community of collective understanding.
“I would say I am close with other [Journey Scholars],” Cruz said. “I met other people that come from the same background: first generation, everything.”
This community has created a comfortable atmosphere for those, including Cruz, who used to fear college culture.
“We were all worried it would be all white people,” Cruz said. “I was worried because I am brown, and I was scared that I would be lost in a sea of white—that I would lose my Mexican and Honduran heritage just being in a white school. But Journey Scholars made me think about how great it is and how I will not lose it because I have these other people around me.”
Diversity, however, was not paramount in Cruz’s college considerations.
“Being in white culture has been such a big part of my life, so I did not really care. I was mostly just looking at schools for pre-med,” Cruz said.
Medicine was not always in Cruz’s plan, as his dad encouraged him to pursue something that would require less time in academia.
“For a long time I listened to my father and pursued being an engineer,” Cruz said. “[My father] said it would be ‘in-and-out,’ but I kept thinking about it and how I didn’t want to do a lot of that kind of science. I just came to realize I just wanted to help people, not be an engineer.”
Cruz’s vocation goes beyond helping people.
“My real goal is to go to a [developing] country,” Cruz said. “I really want to help women that don’t have enough resources to have a safe birth and to have safe aftercare. I also want to help women who have been genitally mutilated because that is a big thing that no one talks about.”
Cruz has the ability not only to draw from his well of strength but also share with those around him who have had similar experiences as a Journey Scholar. It is this community that affirms Cruz’s drive, culture and vocation, which will support a successful roadmap to his future care of underserved women. Everyone could benefit from taking a step in their personal journeys to be more like Cruz: persevering, driven and unapologetic.