CCC Student Selected for Elite Summer Program

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Although he applied for admission to the Premedical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment (PULSE) program, administered by the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, 18-year-old Nestor Cruz had doubts he would be selected to participate.

“I thought I had no chance of getting accepted because I thought they would only choose students from well-known universities,” said the Cumberland County College student. “However, the moment I received the email saying that I was accepted, I was bursting with joy because I knew this program was going to further my career path.”

The primary goal of the PULSE program is to introduce medical professions to students who are traditionally underrepresented in the field, as well as those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The 6-week summer program–which took place June 6-July 15–provides academic, clinical, research and service learning opportunities with a focus on urban health needs. PULSE helps students become lifelong learners and empowers them to use their knowledge to make a difference in their communities.

Cruz ultimately wants to become a neurosurgeon.

The prestigious PULSE program admits only a select few students. In hearing the long list of Cruz’s accomplishments and aspirations, it should have come as no surprise that the Vineland resident would become part of the exclusive gathering of undergraduates.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Nestor got to join such an elite group of aspiring medical students,” said CCC President Dr. Yves Salomon-Fernandez. “Nestor is a role model for those who follow him and he embodies the values of Cumberland students—perseverance, grit, and high standards of excellence. A very bright future awaits him.”

One of Cumberland County College’s EOF (Educational Opportunity Fund) students, Cruz was active in the college’s Latin American Club, Student Senate, “Acafella” male singing group, Student Pathway Leadership Institute, Entrepreneur Club, and 2nd Nature Club during his freshman year. He is also a volunteer in the emergency room at Inspira Medical Center.

“A person of excellence, Nestor has been able to connect with the opportunities and resources that will help him on his path,” said Cumberland County College’s Heather Bense who, along with fellow EOF counselors Arthur Horn and Linda Slomin, provides guidance for Cruz. “We are proud to see Nestor realizing his full potential, and we look forward to what his future has in store.”

What makes Cruz’s accomplishments even more remarkable is how he has managed to overcome a series of obstacles and adversities in his life.

Unable to speak until the age of six, Cruz developed a speech impediment that resulted in his placement in special education classes.

“I was constantly bullied because I could not speak, but I realized I had the potential to do great things,” Cruz explained.

It wasn’t until 10th grade, when he transitioned to mainstream classrooms, that Cruz began his significant rise to success.

“I excelled in my biology course and received an honorable mention at the Cumberland County College science fair,” Cruz said. “Because of the science fair, my biology teacher gave me the opportunity to take honors chemistry. After completing my junior year in honors chemistry, I made the decision to enroll in advanced placement chemistry.

“AP chemistry was different from any other class I had taken in high school. Despite my disadvantages, and through motivation and perseverance, I was able to attain all A’s for the whole year.”

Cruz has also proven himself proficient in college-level chemistry and microbiology. Although he did not earn academic credit by participating in the PULSE program, Cruz benefited greatly from the opportunity to network with health professionals, medical school administrators, and peers.

“Everyone in the program was amazing and had interesting accomplishments,” said Cruz. “Because these students had accomplished many things, it motivated me to study harder and to accomplish my goals.”

Upon graduating from Cumberland, Cruz intends to transfer to Rowan University, then on to Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota – part of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

Cruz said that a valuable lesson learned during the PULSE program is to search for the root of a medical problem. By becoming a neurosurgeon, Cruz said he will be able to help others, and possibly find the answer to why he was unable to speak throughout his childhood.

For now, Cruz is busy getting a jump start on his sophomore year at Cumberland. The enterprising student contacted his professors to ask what topics will be covered in class next semester.

“Because my courses are going to be challenging, I wanted to start reading the textbooks and working out many of the problems,” Cruz explained. “That way, I will have an easier time with my class assignments and exams because I plan to apply to Thomas Jefferson University for a research study. I also want to continue volunteering at Inspira. My goal is to get 400 hours in before applying for medical school. And I want to apply to the next phase of the PULSE program. I had a great time there and would like to experience it again.”