Politics have always been a part of Anthony Cruz’s life.
In high school at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, he interned for U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel and then mayor Michael Bloomberg — all while he led the Model United Nations team and was editor-in-chief of RKA’s school newspaper. After he graduated in 2011 — and the University of Pennsylvania after that — Cruz took a job as deputy press secretary for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
“I was definitely a nerd,” said Cruz, with a laugh. “Definitely.”
He was a baseball player at RKA, and studied both political science and Mandarin in college. However, Cruz’s interest in politics started well before university, sparked through deep family discussions.
Cruz’s mother immigrated from Ecuador, and his father's family from Cuba. That led to discussions over hot political topics like Fidel Castro, Cuba, and communism that not only ignited Cruz’s interest in government, but also helped him share his parents’ appreciation for America.
“And I really don’t mean to sound cliché or anything but I really just wanted to help my community and people,” Cruz said. “I love this country. It gave us refuge and a safe haven. We are so indebted to this country that we can never really pay it back.”
It was Cruz’s fluency in Spanish that helped make him a major asset throughout his internships, setting him apart from his peers. In a diverse community like Riverdale and Kingsbridge, Cruz’s work as an interpreter was especially important, even though he was just 16 when he started.
Those language skills would help him again after college when Cruz landed the Washington job he has now. Cruz learned Rubio needed a staff assistant fluent in Spanish, and was hired. Cruz worked his way up from staff assistant in Rubio’s Washington office to deputy press secretary.
It was a rise for a political junkie that made Cruz feel like the “luckiest kid.”
“I would have never imagined it,” said Cruz, who also was part of Penn’s college Republicans. “If I was looking at high school me, I would have told myself that ‘you’re crazy to think this would ever happen.’ I was just elated and it really is an honor.”
Rubio, Cruz said, “is a great man and great boss. He has bold leadership thinking that we need in the 21st century, and it’s an honor to work for him, and I love it.”
Although Cruz is successfully “adulting,” as he calls it, this doesn’t stop him from constantly looking for new ways to improve himself. Right now, Cruz is part of the Wilson Center Cyber Security Lab fellowship, a six-week program that teaches the basics of virtual safety. Cruz also is part of the American Future Foundation Writing Fellows program, which helps students improve writing skills in policy and journalism.
This past spring, Cruz was accepted into the Wilson Center Foreign Policy Fellowship, which promotes debates about important issues with leading foreign policy practitioners.
But all of this success stems back to the chance both Engel and Bloomberg gave him as a teenager. He walked into both offices as a teenager determined to learn more. And growing up, RKA was a major source of support and guidance as well.
“My teachers at RKA believed in us and I thank them for helping to cultivate my love for civic engagement and history,” Cruz said. “Eight years ago, I was applying to colleges with great uncertainty about the future. Now I am working in the U.S. Senate. You never know where life will take you.”
CORRECTION: The father of Anthony Cruz — a Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy alum who now works for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — is a descendant of a Cuban immigrant family. Cruz has always worked in Rubio’s Washington office as well. A story in the July 26 edition provided different information.