César A. Cruz Teolol’s Journey from South Central L.A. to Harvard (VIDEO)

Meet César A. Cruz Teolol, recently featured on Meredith Vieira for his incredible work and contributions to the Latino community.

Cruz, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, came to the United States as a child to be reunited with his mother. Like many immigrant mothers, César’s mother set out for the U.S. in pursuit of a better life for her family. Poverty and family separation consequent to the U.S.’s broken immigration system presented barriers for Cruz during his childhood and teenage years, but his will and desire to succeed pummeled each obstacle along the way.

Having grown up on the streets himself, Cruz understands the kind of pressure that youth in gang-afflicted neighborhoods confront. He set out to create a safe-space and support for these children co-founding the Homies Empowerment Program in Oakland, CA. According to Cruz, “Homies Empowerment is an independent, community development organization for trauma impacted, gang involved youth.”

Despite the fact that Cruz has experienced a successful and rewarding career as a long-time educator, he continued to dream big and set high goals for himself. His dreams landed him at Harvard University, where Cruz became the first male immigrant from Mexico to be accepted into the Graduate School of Education’s Educational Leadership Doctoral Program.