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Defying Expectations and Discovering Purpose: Meet Advisor and Alumna Maria Garcia De la Cruz

Maria Garcia De la Cruz donned her cap and gown to accept her Master of Education degree on May 4, 2024. But before she dreamed of taking that step, before she became an educational advisor for the RN-BS Online Completion Program from Boise State, she wanted to be a nurse.

“I thought I was going to help save lives, or help people in the final stages of their lives or in their early stages,” she said.

But life rarely goes as planned.

“Not this statistic”

Photo of Maria Garcia De la Cruz in her Boise State regalia, leaning against a brick wall.
Maria Garcia De la Cruz earned her Master of Education in educational leadership from Boise State this spring.

Garcia De la Cruz grew up loving school.

“It was very empowering,” she said. “What I liked was that I had the freedom or the right to express myself in different ways.”

Her father encouraged her to pursue an education because it is a powerful tool that “no one can take away from you,” she said. But coming from a rural town and a limited-income background, many people told Garcia De la Cruz that college wasn’t a realistic option for her. She didn’t agree.

“I wanted to say, ‘I’m not that statistic,’” she said. “I wanted to challenge myself.”

The sacrifices her parents made to provide her with an education also energized her, as did the encouragement of her high school guidance counselor. “The fact that he believed in me made me believe in myself and let me know that I could go and help others,” she said. “It was an accomplishment not only for me but for my family.”

She is now a first-generation college graduate.

Leaving nursing

Garcia De la Cruz knows that becoming a nurse is not for the faint of heart; her background has equipped her with a unique empathy towards the students she advises. When talking about the academic challenges they face, Garcia De la Cruz often shares her struggles through pre-nursing studies and the rigorous application process.

“I try to be understandable that way,” she said. “They can see that I’m a human too and I know some of their experiences. I don’t know exactly what their feelings are, but I can relate to some of them.

Maria Garcia De la Cruz stands with her parents near the Idaho State University sign.
Garcia De la Cruz’s parents were a source of inspiration in his academic journey, reminding him that education is a powerful tool that no one can take away.

Garcia De la Cruz applied multiple times to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Idaho State University, her alma mater. But she ultimately decided not to pursue the nursing program, viewing her third try as a sign that she needed to reevaluate her goals and purpose.

“That’s when I thought about it and kept asking myself, ‘Is this something I really want?’ “, she said. “I thought I would regret it, but I think it was the best decision. I no longer felt like it was for me. I could tell it wasn’t my passion.

Today, she laughs at the irony of advising students pursuing the degrees she once wanted.

“It wasn’t my ultimate goal, but the path I took led me here,” she said. “Now I understand that my goal in helping people was to create opportunities and connect with others.”

Discover your purpose

Garcia De la Cruz’s first experience as a counselor was at TRIO Upward Bound during the summers of her undergraduate studies. She made connections through academic mentoring and discovered that she enjoyed working with students, especially those from similar backgrounds to her own.

Although she had many educational opportunities, she often had to find them on her own. As an advisor, she wants to alleviate this difficulty for her advisors.

Maria Garcia De la Cruz sits at her desk talking to a student via video call on her computer.
Garcia De la Cruz prioritizes building meaningful connections with the students she advises.

“I always advocate on behalf of students, especially those who I feel are not being heard or who are first-generation and have been repeatedly told that ‘you can’t make it,’” she declared. “I’m here to be a bridge to help them get to where they need to get.”

Inspired by the connections made by full-time counselors, Garcia De la Cruz accepted a full-time position with TRIO working in Magic Valley after graduation. Three years later, she transitioned to her current role at the School of Nursing, eager to give back to an area in which she had invested much of her time: nursing education.

“My biggest motivation was to be someone who was there to listen,” she said. “When you make those meaningful connections, you help (students) have a better experience.” »

Boise’s 2023 statewide counselor summit allowed him to share that knowledge with other counselors. She explained how to make meaningful connections with students using virtual resources. Many attendees gave her positive feedback, thanking her for sharing tips and ideas they had never thought of before.

“It was a great learning experience, and it was nice to see other advisors say, ‘I’m going to use this,’ or reach out,” Garcia De la Cruz said. “I love learning and that’s why I enjoy this advisor position. I feel like I learn something new every day.

Education for Future Impact

Maria Garcia De la Cruz leans on the door frame near her office sign bearing her name and "Academic Advisor".
Garcia De la Cruz’s educational journey inspires him to aim high and help students succeed in any way possible.

Even though she loves her job, Garcia De la Cruz doesn’t imagine staying as a counselor forever. Last fall, she took the plunge into school and began Boise State’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership program.

“I feel like I could have a more powerful voice if I advocated for higher positions,” she said. “I want to, one day, be in a leadership position and be there for students in a different way.”

Graduating this spring, Garcia De la Cruz is grateful for how far her academic and professional journey has been far from simple.

“I always wanted to be involved in education or health in some way,” she said. “Today, I am no longer a healthcare worker, but I am still learning the educational aspect of healthcare by helping students achieve their goals. And I think that’s my goal throughout this process: to help others.