Written by Megan Bednar
[Clinton, N.C.] – Back in August, Rutben Cruz, a current junior at Sampson Early College High School (SECHS), was elected 2022-2023 Vice President of Sampson Community College’s (SCC) Student Government Association (SGA), serving beside Taylor Hill, SGA President. Through his new SGA role, Cruz plans to bring awareness to SCC’s dynamic Hispanic community, while simultaneously working towards both his high school diploma and Associate of Arts degree.
Originally attending Roseboro Salemburg Middle School (RSMS), Cruz decided to switch to SECHS during high school because of the influence of his two brothers, John and Levi, who both previously attended the Early College as well. In choosing SECHS, Cruz mentioned that he wanted to take his education to the next level and challenge himself with college classes, higher standards, and more opportunities. To him, the Early College was truly the right course of action even amidst COVID-19.
“My first-day wasn’t actually in-person,” Cruz explained. “We were virtual, so I didn’t see any of my classmates until halfway through the year. When we went back on campus, it felt quite weird being in the presence of other students since COVID, but I loved it. One thing the Early College does well is ease you into college classes slowly and helps you through with wonderful teachers like Ms. Ceira Eichberg and Ms. Anna Sandy.”
In addition to his classes and work within the SGA, Cruz also trains and competes in U.S. powerlifting competitions around the state. He competes twice a year, training for three months, then resting for three months. In April of 2021, Cruz broke the N.C. powerlifting record for 148 pounds at age 16, and four months later, set another record at a 181-pound body weight.
After graduation, Cruz plans to further his powerlifting career and education by transferring to a four-year university to obtain a degree in sport medicine. He hopes to become either a physical or orthopedic therapist because of his interest in the human body and its structures, thanks to powerlifting. Cruz highly recommends SECHS to other high school students who plan on transferring to a university like him, because in his eyes, the Early College truly prepared him for a successful education and future career.
He elaborated, “I believe that the Early College has been worth it. The education and community alone made it worthwhile and the friends I’ve made along the way made it even better. While the whole high school experience at SECHS was different from regular high school, I don’t regret it one bit.”
Cruz decided to run for SGA office after being introduced to the association by his brother, John Cruz: SCC’s 2019 SGA President. Seeing his contribution to the College and the community made Cruz want to become a part of the SGA and make his own impact on the school and its students. During an NC State trip with the Juntos Club at SECHS, Cruz got to meet a region president of Juntos, who inspired him to also use his SGA role to bring awareness to the growing Hispanic community at SCC—now labeled a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).
Using this fact, and encouragement from his new acquaintance, Cruz decided to team up with Juntos for Hispanic Heritage Month at SCC to help educate students on the Latinx people and show pride for their culture. As SGA Vice President, Cruz hopes to help start and maintain a yearly Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the College in conjunction with Juntos.
He disclosed, “When I found out that I was nominated and elected Vice President I was overjoyed and happy that I could do my fair share at the College and in the community. I hope to celebrate the culture that is within the College. Since SCC is an HSI, I wanted to help bring the Hispanic voice out to the College. I met Hugo, a Juntos president of his region, and he was the person who inspired me to pay more attention to my people and start celebrating the fact that the College is an HSI, and we should act like it. Currently, we are implementing activities for the celebration and appreciation of the Hispanic culture found at the College. I want to do what I can to educate and show my culture’s pride in being Latino.”
A few months after submitting his name for SGA candidacy, Cruz lost his house due to an electrical fire. None of his family was injured, but they lost everything in the blaze. During that time, Crystal White, Department Chair of Social Sciences and Humanities at SCC, and her family adopted Cruz into their home until his family could get back on their feet. Connected through both their local church and SCC, naturally, when asked who he’d like to thank in the article, Cruz named White and her family first. He also voiced his appreciation to Dakota Warren, Anna Cashwell, and Lily White— close friends who have also supported him through thick and thin, ones he wouldn’t trade for the world.
Cruz gratefully voiced, “I will say my mentor would have to be Mrs. Crystal White. In January, my house was burned down, and she welcomed me into her home until my family was up again. She helped me a lot during those times both academically and emotionally. I now consider her a mother figure– I love her family through and through.”
He continued, “I also want to give credit to my friends. Dakota helps me with my schoolwork and helps me finds my true potential. Lily motivated me to pursue my career in powerlifting and helped me decide to pursue sports medicine. Lastly, Anna has been there since day one and has always there for me. All four of them, including Mrs. White, have been very inspirational and key to my life. I thank them all for what they did during my time in need.”
Sampson CC is incredibly proud of Rutben for all he’s done, and continues to do through his new position. SCC admires his resilience and looks forward to seeing him thrive in his role as SGA Vice President for the 2022-2023 academic year, helping SCC and its students succeed.
For more information about SCC’s Student Government Association or how to get involved, visit www.sampsoncc.edu/sga.
About Sampson Community College: Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.