Junior Daniel Mejia-Cruz credits his parents for sharpening his focus on education. Immigrants from Honduras, his mother and father left their home when he was six to move first to Alaska, and then to Texas. His father worked as a carpenter and his mother as a housekeeper to support their four children and push them toward a better life.
“They ensured we got the best public education we could,” Mejia-Cruz said. Though he acknowledges that attending school isn’t always a sure path to prosperity, he argues that every child in every nation is entitled to a reliable education. “I can’t accept the fact that students have school under a tarp in some villages,” he said.
Despite being just a junior, Mejia-Cruz is very specific when it comes to his career plans: he wants to work in international education and law. “The ultimate goal,” he said, “is formalizing international law so that access to education is treated as a human right, protectable through litigation in international courts.”
Mejia-Cruz recently learned he had made a big step toward his goal. He has received a Public Policy and International Affairs fellowship for college juniors to attend a summer institute at one of four universities — Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, U.C. Berkeley or the University of Michigan. He has selected Carnegie Mellon University. In addition, he says the fellowship will help him gain admission into and receive financial aid from one of the top public policy graduate schools in the country.
The PPIA fellowship is designed to support young people from underrepresented groups enter politics and public service. This summer, Mejia-Cruz will study for seven weeks, taking statistics, economics, policy analysis and a GRE preparation course, and he will travel to Washington D.C. to network with the 60 or so other PPIA fellows.
Mejia-Cruz, who will serve as Bowdoin Student Government president next year, says that after graduating, he will apply for a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English in Morocco and brush up on his French and Arabic language skills. (He already speaks Spanish fluently.) Then he hopes to pursue a J.D. and a master’s degree in public policy.