Pursuing a degree in higher education does not always come directly after high school. For some students, attending a university or college happens after many obstacles and life experiences. One example is Erick Cruz, who at 31 is preparing to graduate with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in Spanish from Wichita State University.
For Erick, college was something that he did not consider at first. He got further sidetracked after legal trouble involving drugs. Fortunately, an officer intervened and helped Erick turn his life around. He then moved to Wichita and volunteered at a homeless shelter called “Open Door,” where he did kitchen and laundry work. He also made friends through networking and attending church.
With the support and the encouragement of those around Erick, he decided to go back to school.
“I have always had the urge to learn and better myself,” he said. “I have many people in my life, whom I love that consistently encouraged me to go to college, and I thought that I should give it a shot to see what I could do.”
Erick has learned that being an adult learner comes with perks but also its challenges, mainly social.
“My life experiences have helped me to have input in class discussions, [but] I would say that one of the hardest things about being an adult learner is almost always being the oldest person in the room,” he said.
Despite those challenges, Erick has been able to create a network of friends, in Wichita and at Wichita State, who are like-minded people who have given him the confidence to succeed.
“Wichita State University accepted me and has helped me become a great student,” he said. “It is through the help that I found in Wichita that I am much closer to achieving my ultimate goal, which is to be a criminal lawyer.”
Reaching that goal meant applying to law school. Erick recently found out that he has been accepted into the University of Kansas School of Law with a $10,000 annual scholarship.
Erick hopes he can someday help others as a city prosecutor or public defendant.