A First-Class Guy: NAC Class of 2009 Alum Julio Cruz Prepares to Graduate from UCLA
As a young boy, Julio Cruz left his home in Mexico and immigrated with his family to the United States. From an early age, perhaps inspired by his family’s commitment to step outside of their comfort zone in search of greater success, Julio dreamed of forging academic trails and becoming the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. To ensure his success, Julio dedicated himself to his studies as well as extracurricular activities like basketball and track & field. By the time he graduated from Santa Ana High School in 2009 as one of the top 100 seniors in the Santa Ana Unified School District, Julio had gained admission to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on a full-ride scholarship awarded through the Heid Memorial Foundation. Now, four years later, Julio is poised to join other members of the Nicholas Academic Centers’ Class of 2009 in the first group of NAC alums to graduate from college.
Several prestigious schools wanted Julio to join their ranks, including University of California, Berkeley, Chapman University, and Loyola Marymount University. When asked why he chose to attend UCLA, Julio responds, “I had heard about UCLA and USC ever since I could remember, and I always thought of UCLA as the good guy’s school.” He adds, “This mentality has never really changed, and I still feel the same way today.”
Since enrolling in classes for his first quarter at UCLA, Julio has explored a number of educational paths, and pushed his education forward at full speed. He is currently taking 22 units of academic coursework while maintaining his extracurricular endeavors, which include participating in the Undergraduate Business Society (UBS), UCLA personal fitness training, and tutoring kids in lower-income areas of Los Angeles and increasing awareness of higher education opportunities. “I am able to balance [academics and extra curricular activities] by having a lot of discipline, prioritizing the things that matter in my life, and getting good sleep.” Julio also credits his mother for helping him manage his time and tasks. “My mom has supported me financially, morally, and by prepping my meals for the week.”
Although he has always held an interest in Business and Economics, Julio ultimately majored in Sociology. According to Julio, choosing a major represents only one aspect of the college experience. “I feel my experience here a UCLA has opened me up to new ideas, thus broadening my thinking. My education changed how I believe things and see them. Now, I am careful when I examine information that is presented to me, and I do not just blindly and automatically accept information from any source. Also, I feel am able to adapt to novel situations and execute accordingly.”
After graduating from UCLA, Julio plans to continue exploring his options, and possibly pursue a graduate-level education. “I definitely want to take a year off to work and experience life without school, and then I’ll weigh my options on grad school. I am considering applying for business school or pursuing a career as a registered nurse.”