The Regeneron STS is a program of the Society for Science and the public that recognizes and empowers the most promising young scientists in the U.S. who are creating the ideas and solutions to solve our most urgent challenges. The program is considered to be the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition for high school students.
Cruz was stunned when the announcement was released on Jan. 9.
“While I was walking down the hall, my friends approached me and congratulated me on being a Regeneron scholar,” she recalled. “I didn’t believe them at first, but when I walked into my science research class, my teacher confirmed that I was, in fact, a scholar. I’m really appreciative of my teachers, the district and the community for always helping me and encouraging me to persevere and do what I love.”
Cruz began her research in the summer of 2017 at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory through Columbia University as part of the NASA “Climate Change in the Hudson Estuary” internship program. Under the mentorship of Dr. Dorothy M. Peteet, she analyzed the change in human settlement over time by testing the amount of animal and plant matter found in sediment across the New York region. Encouraged by the ongoing support of her peers, science research teacher Alison Huenger and Peteet, she submitted her project, “Human Impact on the Hudson and Gateway Estuaries.”
Each of the 300 scholars received a $2,000 award from Regeneron with a matching donation to his or her school. A total of $1.2 million in scholar awards is granted to inspire more young people to engage in science. Forty of these scholars were announced as finalists on Jan. 23, and the finalists have been invited to Washington, D.C., in March to participate in final judging, have their work on public display, meet with notable scientists and compete for awards, including the top prize of $250,000.
Aside from her love of science, Cruz is passionate about singing and musical theater. She is heavily involved as a soprano in her school’s chorus program and various ensembles, and she started her own a capella group, the Shirley Tempos, which performed in the school’s last concert series. She has demonstrated her versatility as a singer and actor by portraying both male and female characters on stage in numerous school musical productions. Her roles have included Edwin Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Sister Margaretta in The Sound of Music, Danny Zuko in Grease, George in The Drowsy Chaperone and Biondello in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.
Cruz’s talents as a singer have extended well beyond the school community. She was invited to perform in the Nassau Music Educators Association All-County Festival, the New York State School Music Association All-State Festival and the National Association for Music Education’s All-National Honor Ensembles. She was also named a finalist in Schmidt Vocal competition.
Not only is Cruz strong academically, she was named an AP Scholar with Distinction by the College Board, but her classroom studies are balanced with extracurricular involvement, as well. She is president of the Feminism Club, co-president of the English Honor Society and co-captain of the mock trial team, as well as a member of the Math, Science, Social Studies and National honor societies. She also takes dance lessons at Berest Dance Center in Port Washington and volunteers for Grassroots Environmental Education, a nonprofit organization focused on changing legislature on environmental policies in the New York area.
Cruz plans to major in environmental engineering and minor in economics and vocal performance.