A couple of years ago, Palmetto High School rising senior Jack Cruz-Alvarez went on a medical mission to Guatemala.
“It was the Emmaus Medical Mission,” he says.
The folks on the mission went to a small village outside Guatemala City.
“We set up a makeshift hospital,” he says.
Conditions were primitive. Enough so that Cruz-Alvarez ended up giving eye exams and handing out glasses.
“It was a trial and error thing. They would tell us what line was blurry,” he says.
Cruz-Alvarez says it was an amazing experience.
“It was crazy what you saw. There is so much poverty,” he says. “They don’t even have toothbrushes. It was shocking. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”
Going on the mission did change him.
“I think it gave me a better sense of the world and what’s happening in it,” he says. “I would love to go back if the dates do not conflict with my exams next year. It was truly a life-changing experience.”
Many students who go on medical missions are interested in medicine as a career but that’s not Cruz-Alvarez’s plan. He’s focusing on journalism. He believes news coverage can help inform people of what’s happening and that can make a difference.
When school goes back in session, Cruz-Alvarez will be the online managing editor for the Panther. His job deals with managing schedules and meeting deadlines.
“Next year, I’m going to try to move it to podcasting and online production,” he says.
He also runs the paper’s social media accounts.
“I do write,” he says. “I will continue writing for the Panther.”
This summer, he participated in the summer journalism program at the University of Miami called Miami Montage. The theme of the program this year is Digital Divide in South Florida. His story is about tech businesses in Miami.
Earlier this summer he took at collegiate writing class at the University of Chicago as a Neubauer Family Adelante Summer Scholar. Cruz-Alvarez was one of 26 Hispanic and Latino students participating in the program.
At school, Cruz-Alvarez is a member of the Social Studies Honor Society and the History Bowl team.
“We’ve been to nationals the last two years,” he says.
Cruz-Alvarez likes history because he believes it’s something we can all learn from.
“When you see parallels throughout history, you can better understand the events of the present by relating them to the events of the past.
I think we can all use history to evaluate our current social, economic, and political states with greater clarity and objectivity.”
He’s also been on an Odyssey of the Mind team since first grade. The Palmetto team won second place in the World Finals in May.
“We’ve been to the World Finals six times,” he says. “We will not be competing again next year – as seniors we decided to dedicate time to our studies and future college careers.”
Cruz-Alvarez participates in the Tutoring for Tomorrow program run by Palmetto students.
“We pair up students with tutors who can teach them for cheaper than most tutoring companies,” he says. “I hope my tutoring makes a difference. I think it does on the individual level.”
He tutored from January until May, when most students finished their Advanced Placement exams and classes. He hopes to tutor more frequently next school year.
“I tutor math all subjects including Calculus and below,” he says.
For college Cruz-Alvarez says he’s considering the University of Chicago, UM, Duke, Columbia, Northwestern, and USC.
He’s planning on majoring in journalism or pre-journalism.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld