Sociology alumnus fights to end human trafficking
Alumni profile: Edgar Cruz
Job: End Human Trafficking Fellow at UNICEF
Minor: Political science, and women’s studies and gender studies
Edgar Cruz has spent the last two years speaking out and advocating for others in public and social service spheres.
Cruz, who graduated from Loyola in 2014, was recently named one of The Hispanic Coalition NY’s 2016 40 Under 40 Rising Stars. He started his post-collegiate career as a community organizer in Brighton Park, a neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago, where he worked on voter registration and minimum-wage campaigns. He then became an AmeriCorps volunteer and worked with youth in Washington, D.C., and the Boston area, where he was placed at the Massachusetts Children’s Alliance, which responds to and reports child abuse.
Now, he’s fighting to end human trafficking at UNICEF.
“Through that work in Boston I realized a small percentage of survivors, victims, those children coming in had experienced some kind of human trafficking,” Cruz said. “Trafficking is child abuse, but not all child abuse is trafficking.
A change agent committed to justice
Raised by Mexican immigrants, Cruz credits his parents for installing in him a belief in the power of change. Growing up, he witnessed their struggles but also their triumphs, their ability to look at life and the world globally, which has benefited him in his new position.
“This job is absolutely life-changing,” said Cruz, who has been in the role for five months. “I’ve been doing a lot of educating across New York, at the UN for various groups: high school students, college students, and professionals. Being able to educate, advocate, and to mobilize on behalf of survivors and victims has been extremely rewarding.”
During his time at Loyola, Cruz participated in numerous programs including the McNair Scholars program and Bridge to Loyola. He also won a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute scholarship and was a fellow in The Public Policy & International Affairs Program—a highly competitive summer program.
Cruz said faculty members within the Department of Sociology had a strong influence on his worldview, particularly former Loyola adjunct faculty member Matthew Hoffman, who taught a course on environmental sociology.
Hoffman recalls Cruz as a standout student who was a critical thinker and stayed after class to ask meaningful questions—all while connecting the dots between sociology and other disciplines.
“One of the things that set Edgar a part was vision,” Hoffman said. “He was interested in systemic change, which led him to policy. He, even then, was thinking about the bigger picture.”
Looking back, looking to the future
Joe Saucedo, director of Loyola’s Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, shares a Mexican heritage and Texas roots with Cruz. Saucedo served as a hall director of Baumhart Hall the same time Cruz was a resident assistant. He got to know Cruz better when Cruz participated in the former Men’s Project, where male students tackle issues surrounding masculinity and gender.
Saucedo said Cruz had a keen self-awareness and a deep commitment to justice that has helped him get where he is now.
“He’s someone who has the content knowledge to support what he says,” Saucedo said. “He’s someone who is open to being vulnerable about his stigmatized, marginalized identities and but also the privilege that intersects with being a male in society.”
Ten years from now, Cruz he said would like to have completed graduate school and enact social justice reform in our governmental policies and within our social and political systems.
There’s one lasting value that Cruz takes with him of his time at Loyola: Ordinary people can do their part in the world and make an impact.
“I see myself as an ordinary citizen. I’m not extraordinary at all,” Cruz said. “I’m doing the best I can with what I have, and I hope other folks can see that and can try to take on that notion.”