My name is Rafael Hernandez Cruz. This coming fall 2020, I will be starting my Master’s degree in art history at Tufts University. Prior to this, I completed my undergraduate degree in Film Studies and Italian at Middlebury College in 2019. I am very excited to enter the world of academia again and continue down my path of eventually becoming a professor.
At Tufts, I was awarded a $40,000 scholarship. This covers around 75% of the full tuition. At Tufts, graduate students in the art history program only have to pay tuition for the first year. This means that I only need to pay $15,000. Apart from this, I also have to pay a $4000 ancillary fee (student fees, health insurance, graduate student fee).
*remaining tuition= $15,000
*ancillary fees= $4,000 (student fees, health insurance, graduate student fee)
If you are able to donate to my fund, any amount would be greatly appreciated! If not, sharing this link with your friends and family would also be greatly appreciated.
I was originally born in the small, rural village of Zapotitlán Palmas in the mountainous and hilly state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. At the age of 6, my parents, my older sister, and I moved from our small village to humid Fort Myers, Florida. At the age of 7, I was given full U.S. citizenship. Given this document, I realized my life would be greatly different from those in my village. Thus, my family set our eyes on the American dream.
When we arrived in Fort Myers, my family stayed with my uncle who allowed us to turn his garage into a temporary room for my family to use as a bedroom. After two years there, my father was finally able to buy a modest house. This started the beginning of our journey.
During my early years in the U.S., I attended a public school. This all changed when I turned 9 and applied to a competitive private prep school in Fort Myers. My sister had successfully applied and received admission to this school 3 years prior. This is to say, I had big shoes to fill. Thankfully, like my sister, I was also accepted with a full scholarship. This kind of financial help ensured that my parents would not have to worry about financing my studies. Both my parents have always worked. My mother and father worked in a private community doing landscaping work and janitorial work respectively. In their free time, they would do landscaping work as well. Even with their jobs, money was always tight at home, but they ensured us that they would always support us on our academic journey and beyond.
I could then focus my entire attention on developing my academic curiosities. I attended this private prep school, Canterbury school from the age of 11 until 19. In these 8 years, I received a worldly education. Although the initial shock of being surrounded by peers coming from wealthy families, I was able to overcome this social difference and put myself in situations where I challenged myself and pushed my academic interests even further. During my final year at Canterbury, I received admission to Middlebury College, a small competitive liberal arts college in Middlebury, Vermont.
At Middlebury, I studied Film Studies and Italian. Similar to my time at my prep school, I used all the available opportunities at Middlebury to further develop myself as an academic. At the end of my first year, I was nominated by one of my professors to work as a peer writing tutor at my college’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research. There, I continued to hone my love for teaching as I mentored each year a group of 16 incoming freshmen. I also held independent tutoring positions on campus where I edited and revised students’ papers from across all disciplines.
Apart from my work at the center, I worked as an independent photographer for the college. I photographed various private events, club gatherings, and cultural performances. This is to say, I worked on average three different jobs each year of my undergraduate career to finance myself. Thankfully, Middlebury College’s generous financial aid package covered nearly 96% of the total tuition. I received external scholarships which then covered the rest of my tuition. I am fortunate enough that I was able to graduate college without any student loans.
Thankfully, the lack of a financial burden allowed me to focus on my studies. During my second year, I came across the discipline of Film Studies. Quickly, I became obsessed with film theory specifically, a discipline that many film students do not follow due to the difficulty of learning to ‘read’ theory. Coupled with this, from the first semester at college, I took intensive Italian courses. The latter gave me the opportunity to study a semester in Florence, Italy during the spring semester of my junior year in 2018. Middlebury is highly acclaimed for its intense language programs. Therefore, I was able to take Master’s level courses in art history and film at the renowned Accademia di Belle Arti., the art academy next to the David Museum. Through my time at this art academy, I continued to develop my interests especially in the field of art history but also developed my language skills to a near-native level.
Sadly, the end of my spring semester did not end too well. In June 2018, my family was involved in a severe car crash. A reckless driver crashed into my family’s car leading to the untimely death of my mother who was 46 years old at the time. To add to this, my sisters and father suffered severe injuries. My father was placed in intensive care and remained in two different hospitals for a total of three months. Since my father does not speak English too well, I slept in the hospital for that summer to help with communicating with the doctors.
The death of my mother changed my entire life. Along with my father, my mother shaped my world view and gave me the motivation to strive for academic excellence. She always told me to be as highly educated as possible because no one could take away my intelligence. I know where her sentiment originates. Both my parents were not as privileged as me. They came from poverty and a difficult life. My father only received a middle school education before he dropped out to help his family. My mother was forced to drop out of school at the age of 10 due to her family’s poverty and the need for her to help at home. Education then became the one thing my parents wanted for my siblings and me. With my mother’s death and my father’s hospitalization, the thought of going back to college and finishing my last year seemed far and not as important as mourning and helping my father. Ultimately, my father was discharged from the hospital a couple of days before I was supposed to start my final year at Middlebury. Because of his improvement in his health, I decided to continue with my plans and finish my last year in school as I know my mother would have wanted.
During my final year, I gave all my energy and concentration to do my best. During my final semester, I took upon writing a 100-page thesis on film theory and philosophy. At the end of the semester, I received honors for my thesis and graduated Magna Cum Laude and was awarded the departmental award in the Italian department. During my final semester, I took an intensive german course which I proceeded to continue by attending my college’s intensive summer language school. By the end of the summer, I decided to move to Germany to work as an Au Pair. By the time I arrived in Germany, I spoke German at a low intermediate level. As I write this, I am near a native level in speaking, writing, and reading in German. It is clear, that I have a deep passion for languages. Apart from English, I am fluent in Spanish, Italian, German, and currently relearning my French.
Because the work of an Au Pair barely pays any significant amount, my savings are quite low. Like I stated earlier, I was awarded a prestigious award on behalf of the art history department. I am thankful for this scholarship as it covers a large portion of my tuition. At the same time, because of the current pandemic and economic uncertainty caused by covid-19, I am not in a position to pay the remaining $15,000 along with the $4000 ancillary fees.
I am very fortunate to be able to reach this level in higher education. As many know, there are few people of color in the field of academia. The smaller and prestigious a field is, the fewer students of color there are. I have been privileged to have received the best education I could possibly ask for. My older sister graduated from Wellesley College and my younger sister is currently attending the all-girls boarding school Westover school in Middlebury, Connecticut where she also won a scholarship to attend. I am proud of my sisters and me in the fact that we have strived to accomplish my late mother’s dream as well and continuing to fight for my father’s wishes to see us further succeed in our life.
I hope you are able to contribute any amount to this fund or even share this link with your friends and family. With your contribution, I assure you that you will be contributing to my academic success in undertaking a master’s degree at Tufts University. Beyond this, I hope to attend a Ph.D. program in film studies with the hopes of spending a career in academia researching and teaching film. Thank you for your time and help. I greatly appreciate it.
- Maya Chandar
- Sergio Reyes
- Diana Cruz
- Joachim Scheffer
- Elizabeth Dunford
Fort Myers, FL