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Name: Cynthia T. Cruz

Hometown: San Marcos, TX

Current City: Arlington, TX

Current Job: Director, Public Relations, Lopez Negrete Communications

CHCI Program/Year: Ford Foundation Fellow of CHCI Public Policy Fellowship – 1987-1988

1. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?

It’s been an interesting journey! CHCI was the launching pad for a variety of amazing career building experiences. I interned at CNN as part of my CHCI Ford Fellowship since my background is in journalism. When the program was over, I stayed in Washington and worked for Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez for five years as a Legislative Assistant. Then I moved to North Carolina where I worked for RJ Reynolds in public relations, community relations and public affairs. I earned my MBA in the executive program at Wake Forest University and traveled to China. I then moved to Miami and worked with Levi Strauss two years in their Latin America hub. After 15 years, I returned to my home state of Texas, where I headed up the Corporate Communications department at Valor Telecom, a start-up telecommunications company based in Dallas.

My original plans were to return to Texas immediately after my nine-month fellowship. And, life took some fascinating turns! Looking back, each of these adventures allowed me to gain immense insight into government, politics, business and the interplay among these society-shaping forces. More importantly, I was able to build a dynamic expertise in communications and public affairs, that’s an amalgamation of these collective experiences.

2. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?

CHCI facilitated an unmatched learning experience and exposed me to the world. I often tell college students that regardless of their field of study, they should spend a year in Washington, D.C. There’s no other place in the world where you can get this level of access, exposure to all forms of leadership and points of view, and begin building a solid network of national Latino leaders and valuable, lifetime connections. An environment like Washington and Capitol Hill allows you to understand the many faces of leadership, which will be extremely valuable as you begin to define your own style of leadership and move into your career and life work.

3. How have you stayed engaged in community service?

Yes! And, I’ve learned over the years that community service can be defined in numerous ways. Throughout my career, community service takes the form of creating a voice for and representing our community’s interests within corporate and business interests. I’ve also served as a bridge and interpreter for our community within large mainstream environments, advocating that corporate social responsibility programs and philanthropic support be directed to Latino nonprofit organizations focused on improving the well-being of our communities. Most recently, I’ve begun volunteering, speaking with high school students, and sharing my stories. The beauty of our communities is that there are ample ways to give and receive in the name of service throughout a lifetime. The important thing is to find your way.

4. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?

Be open to all experiences and take full advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. CHCI has given you a unique opportunity. And, it’s always a historical time in our nation’s capital. Gather as many resources as possible. This is the magic you’ll use throughout your lifetime, and in ways you can’t even imagine just now.

5. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

Similar to many of my CHCI colleagues, I’ve challenged myself and have achieved many of my personal goals – some known and some revealed along the way. I come from a family with strong migrant roots. In many ways, I see myself as a modern migrant, working many of the same fields, but at a different level.