University Communications

First-generation student excels with help of Student Support Services

July 25, 2012 |
Article Photo
Glorisel Cruz interacts with children during a two-week global engagement research program in the Dominican Republic.
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Glorisel Cruz, a junior at the University of Southern Indiana with a double-major in health services and Spanish, is enrolled in the Honors Program, serves as historian of the Hispanic Student Union, and is a member of the African Student Union. She also is involved in programs through USI’s Multicultural Center and plans to be a resident assistant for Residence Life this fall. She is an advocate for the Student Support Services (SSS) program in University Division. The first-generation student uses the SSS program to discover her strengths and talents.

Cruz was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and she and her family moved to the United States in 2000, when she was eight years old. They lived in Chicago, Illinois, before moving to their current home in Logansport, Indiana. A high school education was out of reach for her parents, and her siblings completed high school and entered the workforce. She is the first in her family to attend college.

Cruz recently received the Excellence in Learning Award from the USI Foundation. Each year, the College of Liberal Arts awards two $1,000 USI Foundation Excellence in Learning Awards to deserving students. The dean of the College of Liberal Arts seeks nominations from faculty within the college for sophomore and junior undergraduates who have achieved a high level of academic success and display extraordinary professional promise in their chosen field. 

“Receiving the Excellence in Learning Award is a great honor,” said Cruz. “It represents not only my sacrifices to get where I am today, but also my family's sacrifices. I hope other minority students see me as an example so they will believe they can achieve more than they think.”

Cruz received one of two Student of the Year awards for 2012. The award recognizes exemplary participation, academic achievement, and involvement in the University and community. Student of the Year winners are entrusted to serve as ambassadors for the SSS program and encourages fellow SSS students to achieve their goals. 

SSS is one of eight grant funded TRIO programs offered through the U.S. Department of Education.At USI, the SSS Program helps motivate 140 eligible students to successfully complete their college degree.

Cruz credits Mike Minton, program director of SSS, and the staff for providing her with tools she needs to succeed as a college student. She has sharpened her academic skills in the SSS program, which is housed in Academic Skills in University Division.

She admits that she has been timid by nature. “They’ve helped me open up to people and break out of being shy,” said Cruz. “This was a task that I needed to accomplish before I could start developing as a leader.”

As a first-generation college student, Cruz often relies on support from other students and administrators in the academic world. “My parents only finished third grade,” she said. “They’re supportive, but don’t always understand the demands on a college student.”

Cruz was part of a program through SSS that required her to spend four hours a week mentoring other students in schedule organization and time management. Her main responsibilities included working one-on-one with individuals who needed academic and social support.

For Cruz, the connections made in SSS go beyond academic needs. “Student Support Services is more than a program, it’s a family,” she states. “They care about your academic success and your personal wellness. Once I had a family emergency and  had to go home. The next day, Mike called me to see if everything was alright. That meant a lot to me.”

In June, Cruz traveled to the Dominican Republic for a two-week global engagement research program. The trip was led by Dr. Manuel Apodaca-Valdez and Dr. Norma Rosas Mayén, assistant professors of Spanish from the department of Modern and Classical Languages.  Cruz was one of eight students who conducted interviews and immersed themselves in cultural aspects of Dominican life.  With funding from a USI Endeavor grant, she and other students completed projects focusing on particular aspects of African influences on current culture and language in the Dominican Republic. 

Cruz’s research project focused on contraceptive use by Dominican women. Apodaca-Valdez said Cruz interacted well with women in the Dominican Republic, even though her research was on a sensitive subject. He claimed Cruz’s dedication to her own cultural roots is evident.  “Glorisel is one of the most committed students with an Hispanic heritage we have at USI,” he said.  “As a student, she is outstanding, always willing to participate in and beyond the classroom.” 

Learn more about Glorisel’s experiences as a first-generation student here.

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