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Former Student Ambassador and Class of '18 grad De La Cruz earns prestigious Emerging Leader Award

Former Student Ambassador and Class of '18 grad De La Cruz earns prestigious Emerging Leader Award

Mileiry “Milly” De La Cruz – a Providence, RI, native; Community College of Rhode Class of 2018 graduate via the Joint Admissions Agreement program; and a beneficiary of the college’s Access to Opportunity Program – continues to make a significant impact in higher education.

In her current role as Associate Director of Academic Support and Care at Clark University, De La Cruz recently earned this year’s American Council on Education (ACE) Women’s Network Massachusetts Emerging Leader Award for her hard work and dedication to serving students.

As witnesses to her personal and professional growth through the years, CCRI’s Director of Academic Program Review and Accreditation Lauren Webb and Admissions Counselor Marlex Torres nominated De La Cruz for the award, which recognizes an early career leader with exceptional growth and contributions to Massachusetts higher education and a commitment to the advancement of women. De La Cruz says winning this award means a lot because she can now reflect back on her time as a CCRI student and can’t help but feel proud of how far she has come.

"I am overwhelmed with joy for being recognized for my hard work and dedication to students on this special day," De La Cruz said. "As a first-generation college graduate and daughter of Dominican immigrants, I am proud of myself for making it this far early in my career and to have the privilege of representing my ancestors and the Latinx community at large.

"Eighteen-year-old me would’ve never imagined being where I am today and I am so thankful for everyone who has believed in my potential."

De La Cruz's journey in and outside CCRI has been well-documented through the years. At CCRI, De La Cruz kept busy during her time as a student, working in the Enrollment Services office in addition to serving as a tour guide at various on-campus events in her role as a Student Ambassador. The JAA program is what really laid the foundation for De La Cruz, who admits she’d have been “pretty lost” trying to navigate through the college process on her own.

When she arrived at CCRI, she had no career choice in mind until she got involved on campus. She initially wanted to pursue Diagnostic Medical Sonography, but her work as an ambassador ultimately sparked her interest in higher education. 

After graduating from CCRI, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Rhode Island College in 2020 and obtained her master’s degree in Higher Education from Providence College in 2022. During that time, she returned to the college and worked as a Donor Engagement Officer for the CCRI Foundation in 2021.

For the past three years, De La Cruz has worked in the Massachusetts higher education system, including her previous role as a Special Programs Coordinator and Student Success Coach at Bristol Community College, where she helped students find their career paths and connected them with resources.

Through her one-on-one academic coaching, she created a safe space for students to thrive both personally and academically. In that role, De La Cruz mainly worked with female-identifying students and mothers, allowing her to help many women obtain their associate degrees so that they could advance professionally. She was also involved on campus and appointed as the Co-chair of the Equity and Inclusion Council. This allowed her to run the monthly government council meetings and help college officials create an inclusive environment for Bristol students, faculty, and staff. She also volunteered at the Mobile Food Market at Bristol and helped provide free groceries and personal hygiene products, which included menstrual products for women.

In her current role at Clark University, De La Cruz continues to make a significant impact on the lives of students. She is managing the Care Team at Clark, which provides holistic support to students and helps eliminate barriers to their success. She also helps manage the basic needs of the students by running the Emergency Funding committee and the Swipe out Hunger program, both of which help with food insecurity.

De La Cruz's background helps her relate to students who need help along the way, specifically those who are afraid to ask for it or aren’t comfortable stepping out of their comfort zone. “What I’m doing now," she says, "is a reflection of the lessons I learned and the people I met at CCRI, who always believed I could achieve success. My future is built upon the strong foundation I found at CCRI.”

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