Graduate Cruz Romero: First-gen student finds purpose at NAU, inspires others to find theirs

Meet Cruz Romero.

Graduate program: Doctorate of Physical Therapy
Campus: Phoenix Bio-Medical

Cruz Romero grew up in south Phoenix, where few are encouraged to seek a higher education.

“My mother valued education but was unaware of its many benefits,” he said. “My family’s focus was centered on working multiple jobs. While living in impoverished conditions, I learned the value of working hard and doing my best at an early age.”

As a first-generation college student, it was not easy to pave the path for his younger siblings. But work hard he did.

Romero completed his undergraduate degree at NAU in 2013 and graduated summa cum laude with a 3.9 GPA. He served as a resident assistant, supplementary instructor, senior orientation leader and senior tour guide. Additionally, he was honored as NAU Homecoming King in 2011 and received the coveted Gold Axe Award.

“My younger sister and brother are following in my footsteps and going to college now too,” he said. “It gives me strength and motivation to know that I am alleviating doubt that once masked my family’s view of higher education.”

This weekend, Cruz graduates with a doctorate in physical therapy (PT).

During his tenure at NAU, Cruz provided PT to patients of low socioeconomic status in Mexico, helped counsel children with terminal illnesses and chronic disabilities, introduced high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to careers in health care and promoted STEM education to Phoenix youth.

Romero works with patient“I want to touch the lives of individuals in my community that are in need of someone they can believe in,” Romero said. “Therefore, patient care will always be at the forefront of my decision to become a physical therapist. I have developed valuable skills and participated in phenomenal experiences during my time at Northern Arizona University. These experiences have contributed to my career aspirations, preparing me with more knowledge and insight to interact effectively and inclusively with our ever-changing, diverse community.”

Romero found his purpose while at NAU, and the PT program helped make it a reality. Now he hopes to continue paying it forward.

“I get out of bed every morning to make myself better, serve others and help them accomplish their goals so they too may walk in their purpose.”

Romero is studying for this licensure exam that he will take later this summer. Once licensed, he plans to practice outpatient orthopedics, sports medicine and private practice physical therapy in the Phoenix Metro area.

NAU Communications