Barbara Cruz ’19 is a government major, Latina/o Studies minor, and POSSE scholar in the College of Arts & Sciences. Joseph Martínez, LSSO intern, interviewed her on the go on central campus.
JM: What made you pick your major? What life experiences influenced your choice?
BC: I’m a government major and I came into Cornell knowing I was going to be government because of the work I had done four years prior (almost seven now) centered around civic education, student leadership, youth voice and youth engagement. Additionally, I thought government was a natural progression simply because policy isn’t set up to be most effective. Studying the government major and its intersectionality gave names to everyday things that I experienced. I was involved in a youth leadership group in high school (Democracy Fellows) and it was the catalyzing event for choosing this area of study. I began to see how all of these issues affect young people, and to notice that young people are not in the room. I want to get young people in the room.
JM: How do you see your academic focus intersecting with what is going on with Latinx community in the U.S., including your family community?
BC: I see it in many ways — The lack of access that Latinx people have to higher education, and spaces that were never created for the Latinx community or other marginalized communities. Many professional jobs are extremely white and are dominated by people of higher socio-economic status. I believe that we are here because someone else is not, and we owe it to our communities to pay our opportunity forward. We have the knowledge of the people that have come before us. In regard to the privileged life here at Cornell, I need to give back to the community that helped me come here, and I think that government has given me an effective platform to do so.
JM: How do you use what you’re learning here in the real world?
BC: I feel that Cornell has offered me social capital, but it is difficult to think of the privilege that Cornell offers me. I leverage the education where I need it. It puts a name to social processes that we believe are normal. In actuality, we are part of larger social systems and we don’t always see the big picture. Additionally, I am learning communication and leadership skills that will someday help me shape the world in a very positive way.
JM: How did you pick Cornell?
BC: I am a Posse scholar, which is a scholarship program that started in [New York] City. In the Posse Chicago at the time of my application, there were only small liberal arts schools accepting students [until Cornell joined]. I always knew I wanted to go to a big political science school, and I also thought it was important to leave the Midwest because I wanted to immerse myself in a new community. I wanted to see the parallels in the communities and learn how to work with [the communities].
JM: What are your extracurriculars?
BC: Currently I am the co-chair of LAL [La Asociación Latina], which is one of the umbrella organizations for the multicultural organizations on campus. I have been involved since freshman fall and I was the vice president of programming, and then vice president of community relations. I served as the political chair of Cornell’s chapter of MEChA [Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán] and have been involved since freshman year. I am also the service learning advisor for Alternative Breaks and one of the board members for the community partnership funding board (a student run grant board at Cornell), which gives grants for community action projects that address social issues. Lastly, I am a member of the Cornell Hip-hop Heads.
JM: Any mentors?
BC: At Cornell, Professor Jamila Michener is my faculty advisor and mentor. She has very much helped me feel that Cornell was the right choice, since the national elections and other external issues. She comes from a community that is built around community organizing similar to mine, and her similar background has helped me understand why the academic work I am doing is important. I have a wide number of mentors outside of Cornell that have helped with community organizing, youth action and youth engagement work. I truly do believe they taught me everything I know.