Isa Amaro Varas ’23 awarded distinguished Watson Fellowship
Christina Cruz ’20, a sociology and Latin American studies double major and scholar in the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action from Willimantic, Connecticut, has been awarded the 2020 Anna Lord Strauss Medal.
The award is given annually to a graduating senior who has done outstanding work in public or community service, including service to the College. It is presented in honor of Anna Lord Strauss, a remarkable woman who was national president of the League of Women Voters, held five presidential appointments to national and international committees and missions, and served Connecticut College as a trustee for the extraordinary term of 32 years.
A leader, scholar and changemaker, Cruz was honored for her deep commitment to educational access and social justice for Latinx students and lower income communities in the United States.
As a Program in Community Action scholar, Cruz created a course of study focused on understanding and addressing educational disparities in the State of Connecticut with integrative coursework, community-based volunteer work in New London, internships in Hartford, and intensive research on education policy and educational justice during her senior year.
As a sophomore in the Holleran Center gateway course, “Public Policy and Social Ethics,” Cruz engaged in critical inquiry about inequity and volunteered at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center. She worked with a team to organize and implement the 11th Annual Walk to End Homelessness to expand campus and community involvement and successfully raise more than $26,000 for homeless services in the New London community.
At the nexus between scholarship and community action, Cruz began a legislative internship for the State of Connecticut General Assembly during her junior year, working in the office of Connecticut State Senator Douglas McCrory. She conducted legislative research, wrote policy briefs, responded to emails and phone calls from constituents and participated in Education Committee meetings and public hearings. In the summer before her senior year, Cruz accepted an executive branch internship in the office of Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. Proving herself driven, passionate and committed to collaboration, Cruz assisted in the governor’s office by conducting research and proposing new policies to enhance educational experiences for students in lower performing school districts. Based on her experience in government and in an independent study in sociology with Professor Ronald Flores, Cruz completed a senior integrative project, “The Puerto Rican Opportunity Gap: Educational Attainment.”
Cruz’s extensive and impressive resume also includes serving since 2017 as a math tutor for local middle school students through New London’s Church of the City and completing a business internship with Atlantic Broadband in Waterford, Connecticut. On campus, Cruz worked for nearly four years as a circulation supervisor at Charles E. Shain Library and served as a student adviser coordinator through the Office of the Dean of First-Year Students, working closely with deans to train sophomore students to advise incoming first years students during Orientation.
As a sophomore, she served as a student adviser for first-year students in the “Earth Justice” seminar. Cruz has been a leader in the student common interest housing group La Voz Latinx and served as the second chair during her junior year. This student group formed with the vision of creating a space and place that fosters a sense of community and belonging for and among Latinx students. She has also served as a big sibling through the ALANA (African American, Latino/a, Asian American and Native American) Sisters and Brothers program, advising and mentoring students of color on campus, and as a Holleran Center Fellow, advising students for community placements and the Center’s certificate program, supporting the Center’s Enrich Mentor program for students at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School and helping to develop a tutoring program with New London High School.
Shain Library’s Assistant Manager of Access Services Bridget Pupillo, who nominated Cruz for the award, called her “the most civic minded student I have ever met.”
Director of Community Engagement and Holleran Center Operations Rebecca McCue wrote of Cruz, “She has demonstrated that she is committed to taking action for positive social change while maintaining the highest academic standards. Christina is a pleasure to work with and so deserving of this honor.”