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Student Earns Trip To Capital
A Spruce Creek sophomore has been chosen to witness the Bush inauguration.
By Terry O. Roen | Sentinel Staff Writer
January 19, 2005
Jose Cruz Jr., who persuaded his Democratic parents to vote for George W. Bush, is headed to Washington, D.C., today to attend the inauguration of the 43rd president.
The invitation had nothing to do with his political leanings.
The Spruce Creek High School sophomore was chosen as one of 600 student ambassadors from People to People International to watch the Bush inauguration Thursday from the National Mall. He was selected for excelling as a leader in the classroom.
"I really like Bush," said Jose, a lanky Port Orange youth who has a passion for basketball. "He's a good Christian man who has strong beliefs and good morals."
The 15-year-old earned the $2,000 to pay for the five-day trip to the nation's capital by working nights and weekends at the Port Orange CiCi's Pizza, which is owned by his parents, Jose and Glenda Cruz.
Jose Jr. was saving for a car but when the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came up, he said he was happy to spend the money on something educational.
This is the third trip Jose has taken with People to People, a program that promotes cross-cultural experiences through exchange opportunities. When he was 11, Jose spent 22 days in Australia and New Zealand. The next year, he attended a People to People leadership summit at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
"Jose stands out both academically and in his leadership skills," said Kerra Graham, delegate assistant for People to People.
Graham said the inauguration trip was offered to student ambassadors who had already traveled with the program and who had been recommended as leaders by their teachers. People to People originally planned to send 400 students but because of an overwhelming demand, the number was increased to 600, she said.
"I am very blessed to be chosen and hope to learn something about the political process," said Jose, who has aspirations to become an architect. "Hopefully, I'll get to see him [Bush] up close."
The Cruz family moved to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1994. They sold their used car dealership after it had been broken into three times and came to Florida searching for better educational opportunities for their children.
The oldest of three children, Jose was in kindergarten when the family moved to Port
Orange. He participates in a city basketball league and started a community basketball program at All Children's Park, after returning from his leadership summit. The teen takes honors classes and has a 3.6 grade-point average. He is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is active in his church youth group.
"We're very proud of Jose," his mother, Glenda, said. "He's a special kid who sets goals and works to achieve whatever he wants."
Jose will join students from around the country at the inauguration.
The People to People group also will attend an inaugural ball Thursday night. They will meet Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of People to People founder, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The trip also includes visits to Ford's Theater, the Lincoln Memorial, the Kennedy Center and Mount Vernon.