Cardona-Cruz is this Year’s Superintendents’ Winner
TURNERS FALLS, MA – Kevin Cardona-Cruz, this year’s winner from Franklin County Technical School of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ Certificate of Academic Excellence, was described by FCTS Superintendent Richard J. Martin as “an empathetic and compassionate young man who exhibits a passion to seek out new adventures, while changing the lives of others for the better.”
Cardona-Cruz was among eight high school seniors from schools in the region to be presented with the prestigious award. He was chosen by Martin from several FCTS students nominated for the prize.
The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ Certificate of Academic Excellence awards were presented to the students following the annual Franklin County Area Superintendents’ Association Awards Dinner held at Franklin County Technical School’s Apprentice Restaurant. The event honors the award-winning students, and includes invited guests such as parents, guardians, family members, principals, teachers and other staff from participating schools.
The Certificate of Academic Excellence is awarded to students who have distinguished themselves in the pursuit of high academic standards throughout their high school careers, as well as service to the community, and personal qualities such as leadership and integrity.
Other students who won the award this year are Hannah Birch, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School; Dana McRae, Pioneer Valley Regional School; Violet Rawlings, Mohawk Trail Regional High School; Holly Sears-Therrien, Greenfield High School; Angela Self, Frontier Regional School; Mercedez Young, Athol High School; and Snejana Lashtur, Turners Falls High School.
Cardona-Cruz, who came to the Pioneer Valley from his native Puerto Rico, on July 4, 2013, is a student in the FCTS Programming and Web Design program. He is the son of Marisol Cruz-Gonzalez and Sonia Cruz, and lives in Greenfield.
“We’re very excited and proud of him getting this great award,” Cruz said. “When he has a goal, he keeps his eye on the prize until he achieves it. He’s a go-getter. He keeps going until he gets what he wants.”
Cardona-Cruz is one of the top students in his class both vocationally and academically, is involved with Business Professionals of America, and is a teaching assistant in the school’s new Spanish class. He spearheaded the school’s hurricane relief effort for Puerto Rico and took a student from the storm ravaged island under his wing when he came to FCTS.
“Kevin has always been a student with empathy for those around him,” Martin said. “He recently exhibited this when soon after Hurricane Maria, Franklin County Technical School had a student arrive who had been attending a vocational program in Puerto Rico. This newcomer had virtually no knowledge of English. Kevin jumped at the opportunity to assist this student in his transition to our school; at times being translator, at other times assisting him around the building.”
Cynthia Bussey, one of Cardona-Cruz’s vocational instructors, said he is naturally a warm person who is always helpful to other students.
“From day one in shop Kevin has been a positive force,” she said. “He embraces people with open arms.”
Participating in state competitions as a member of Business Professionals of America, Cardona-Cruz placed first as a sophomore in Computer Animation and second in Computer Modeling.
“Kevin is an excellent example of a student who takes the small seeds that teachers manage to give him, and nurtures them in ways that teachers cannot take but the smallest credit for; he embodies the concept of being extraordinary,” said Marcus McLaurin, Cardona-Cruz’s other vocational teacher.
As a junior, Cardona-Cruz decided he wanted to study Japanese in Japan and his mother found him a job at Green Fields Market where he worked washing dishes to save money for the trip. Before he left, he downloaded an app to his cell phone to teach himself Japanese.
“Once in Japan, Kevin was totally immersed in the culture; where many students would have been anxious, Kevin stated that he ‘was really excited to be in another country with limited knowledge of the language,’” Martin said.
Added Bussey, “It took a lot of work for him to do his summer in Japan. He had to raise money, He didn’t speak the language. He went half way across the world. I’m in awe.”
Cruz noted the positive influence FCTS has had on her son.
“The school has always been a big part of helping Kevin,” she said. “It made him feel like he was a part of something. It made him work harder to achieve his goals.”