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Alumni Spotlight: Wendy Cruz

Wendy grew up in Pilsen with her mom and four siblings. She describes a hectic life growing up, but says she always had one thing very clear: she wanted to become a doctor. However, Wendy didn’t know how it was going to happen, or when, until she came across the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (IHSCA). 

After being introduced to IHSCA, Wendy was excited; she had found her dream school and was determined to get accepted. Once enrolled, however, Wendy didn’t have such a great start, “Freshman year I was kind of reckless, and sophomore and junior years were really hard for me. I wasn’t coming to class, I was getting kicked out of class. That’s when- it wasn’t that I was hanging out with the wrong people- it was just making the wrong decisions... If it wasn’t for two of my teachers and my academic adviser who sat down and spoke with me that were like, ‘Wendy, this is not who you are,’ I wouldn’t be here.”

It wasn’t too late to make a change. Wendy sought the help of her teachers and counselors and found the motivation she needed to keep going. She began to take advantage of some of Instituto’s many resources and joined the Escalera, a program focused on ACT tutoring, help with college essays, and the opportunity to visit campuses. Through the program, Wendy found a new job and the support of staff members and her peers.

It finally seemed like everything was starting to fall into place, but during her senior year, Wendy once again found herself facing an obstacle: getting accepted into college. Disappointed and discouraged after receiving rejection letters, an IHSCA teacher encouraged her to try one more time, and Wendy applied to Northeastern Illinois University, where she was accepted and decided to attend after a campus visit. Wendy says, “It was the best decision I could’ve made. I’m happy here.”

Now, Wendy has completed her first year of college and is a first-generation, full time student working two jobs to help support her mom and sisters. She’s a Biology and Women’s and Gender Studies double-major with a minor in Latina/o and Latin American Studies. Sticking with her dream of becoming a doctor, she has her eyes set on becoming a surgeon. Wendy knows the journey won’t be easy, but is determined to keep going so that she can one day give back to the community that has given her so much. “If it wasn’t for Instituto, and if it wasn’t for me coming to the high school that I came to, I wouldn’t be where I am at now,” she says. Wendy dreams of not only coming back to Instituto to help current students, but of also opening her own clinic focused on women in low-income, Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago.