Nine-to-five: Alumnus helps students dream big

At 19, Brian De La Cruz is busy building a career (and a LinkedIn profile) that shines by leveraging his past experience, both in retail marketing at Walgreens while in high school (through the Corporate Work Study program) and last summer as an intern at a smaller boutique marketing agency.

This summer, building on those work experiences, the Class of 2017 CRSM graduate is working full-time as a business development intern at College Bound Opportunities, where he also is a scholar since his junior year at CRSM. At CBO, he’s helping to strategize and execute a three-year fundraising and marketing plan to support the organization’s growth strategies.

From the fourth-floor office in downtown Highland Park, Brian spends five days a week helping the organization mentor and support under-served students to unleash their potential, graduate college and pursue meaningful professions. He’s the first CBO scholar hired by CBO, inspiring students firsthand to follow in his footsteps.

“Brian is so bright, helpful and dedicated and really understands and lives our mission,” said his CBO supervisor, Veronica Accardo, director of development. (Pictured above at CBO with Brian).

As a CBO scholar, Brian is among the ranks of 75 high school students, 125 college students and 101 alumni who receive one-on-one mentoring services from their junior year in high school through college. The organization’s mission is to empower and inspire low income, first generation scholars to overcome barriers, graduate college and succeed in life. The mentors do this by helping to navigate the college application process including visits to college campuses and applications for financial aid; helping college students complete degree requirements; and applying for jobs during college and after graduation.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Brian, who is the first member of his family to go to college and says he was a “C” student in middle school.

“CRSM gives students like me the opportunity to become ambitious in our education,” says Brian. “All of the staff there is always putting their best effort in each individual student. Coming from a public middle school, this dedication from the staff of CRSM helped me improve academically. In middle school, I was always a regular C student. I was never above average or below average, if I had a question, most of the time my teachers wouldn’t be able to answer it, they would only direct me towards the textbook and this wouldn’t help me at all.”

“At CRSM the teachers are willing to work with their students all the time: before school, during their lunch or after school. They would do anything possible in order to make a student successful in their classroom.”

The result: Brian achieved a 4.0 throughout his four years of high school. Earning a spot on the High Honor Roll, Brian also excelled as President of the CRSM Senior Council and a member of the Student Ambassador Program, a member of the National Honor Society, and a member of uKnighted (a group that helps promote and raise awareness of the importance of social justice).

“I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this goal if it wasn’t for the support that I received from CRSM; they saw the potential in me and helped me discover it as well,” said Brian. “In my family nobody attended college. I used to believe that college was out of my league and was never an option for me. But I now realize that I was wrong, college is for me, it gives me the opportunity to be able to become someone better in life. Not just become another regular citizen, but to be able to make a change in this world in which I live in.”

Next fall, Brian will transfer to Wheaton College from Augustana where he holds a 3.4 GPA. He wants to continue his degree in Business Administration and pursue a minor in spirituality. He oversees the youth ministry program at his church and interested in integrating his faith into his profession.

“My dream is to work 10 to 15 years in the corporate world, and then to start a non-profit that helps youth,” said Brian.