Story by Sgt Nicole Zurbrugg on 07/01/2019The desire to lead and develop oneself are common aspirations for many young adults but few take or know the necessary steps to grasp these concepts. Crystal Cruz, a rising senior at Idaho Falls High School, embodies these characteristics of leadership and personal growth, and for this reason was selected for the 2019 Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy (SLCDA) hosted by the United States Marine Corps.
SLCDA introduces selected students to the Marine Corps mission, core values, military culture and leadership principles over a week-long academy held at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, VA. They will be challenged to step outside of their comfort zone and to strengthen their confidence and leadership skills. They will be exposed to the teachings and lessons of many Marine Corps leaders and be surrounded by a diverse range of students. Physical training and scenario-based reaction courses will be emphasized throughout the week.
"I hope to gain valuable skills and qualities of leadership from this academy," said Cruz. "I also feel like I have a lot of ambition so I want to share that with the other students attending. To help them reach their goals. I want to motivate them. But I also want to gain long lasting friendships and mentorship with them."
Upon successful completion of SLCDA, each student will graduate more confident and equipped to improve the lives of those around them and will be prepared to become better leaders at home, school and in their communities.
Staff Sgt. Sterling Blakely, recruiter at Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station Idaho Falls, said Cruz stands out amongst her peers in discipline, drive and determination. This is demonstrated not only in her honor level grades, but also how she spends her time. During the week she balances school, work and volunteering at the local hospital. These are all building blocks for her success as a great leader as well as her humility.
During the process of applying for SLCDA, Cruz decided she wanted to become a Marine herself. Speaking with the local Marine Corps representative gave her the direction she needed to step forward.
"Hearing SSgt Blakely speak about the Marine corps and how everyone is a close knit family made me want to be a part of the The Few and The Proud," said Cruz. "I believe being able to go to Quantico for SLCDA will help me with recruit training and the Marine Corps in general as well as with my future career."
Cruz raised her right hand and swore in to the Delayed Entry Program of the Marines on June 24, 2019. Blakely said Cruz continued to challenge and push herself toward this goal despite outside influences telling her she was too small or just a girl. She is a great example of the drive and determination that it takes to become a Marine.
"I want to challenge myself and be a role model for my family," said Cruz. "The core values of honor, courage and commitment align well with what my family instilled in me growing up and I want to continue the traditions. I also love helping out people and what better way than to join the Marine Corps, to serve my country."