Wednesday morning, on the third floor of the Mabee Learning Center, students from the division of language and literature gathered for a bilingual chapel service. All of the socially distanced chairs were filled with attentive students. Everything was originally shared in first-language then repeated in English. Guest speaker for the day was José Cruz, an alum who quickly caught on to the format and carried it through his presentation.
Cruz grew up in Chicago, raised in a working-class family with a sincere desire to get ahead in life and achieve the American dream. Cruz worked summers and weekends alongside his father in the construction trade. His mother, a homemaker and educator at heart, raised four children. Together, his parents instilled in him the values of hard work, faith, and perseverance.
Cruz moved to the Oklahoma City to attend college at Oklahoma Christian University. Earning a degree in communications, Cruz became the first college graduate in his family. He advised those in attendance to choose their words carefully.
"The way we communicate about ourselves reveals a lot about what you're made of," said Cruz.
He encouraged students to connect with people in the community by forming relationships. Relationships build a person's network, something Cruz really needed when he faced challenges in landing a job.
“After graduation, I realized I needed to find something more familiar,” Cruz said. “That led me down to Michael Brooks’ office, and I just got plugged into the community.”
He first got acquainted with House District 89 when he went to work for Sen. Michael Brooks-Jimenez’s campaign. José discovered his calling in helping others through the legal process while working in a law firm. The great need for legal help in his community inspired him to enroll in law school. He graduated from the Oklahoma City University School of Law, where he volunteered in legal clinics and taught Street Law to high school students in South Oklahoma City.
Cruz has since graduated from the Oklahoma City University School of Law and worked as a community outreach specialist for U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, working to assist constituents with federal agency needs.
His drive and passion have not been overlooked. José was chosen to be part of Leadership Oklahoma City’s LOYAL Class X and selected as a 30 Under 30 award recipient in 2016. José is also serving his fifth year as a board member for Variety Care.
Cruz believes that the South Side is home to many great, hard-working Oklahomans. He is a proud Oklahoma City South Sider who has spent time fighting for overlooked and voiceless families. Cruz is currently on the ballot for House District 89, running against Republican John Hutton.
“There’s a lot of work to do down here,” he said. “Obviously, public education is a top priority for me. Being the benefactor of a good education, I realize how far it can take you, and so I want to make sure that kids in south Oklahoma City have the absolute best opportunities as any kid in the rest of Oklahoma City or the State of Oklahoma.”
Cruz put in the work for the upcoming election. With less than two weeks until November 3, he is looking past that date to inauguration day. He is ready to get started!