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From tutee to tutor, Class of 2020 alumnus Cruz now returning the favor at CCRI

March 21, 2022


As someone who once relied on help from tutors while attending the Community College of Rhode Island, Yeriel Cruz is now an industry expert paying it forward in the best way possible.

Cruz, a 21-year-old Dominican Republic native, Class of 2020 graduate, and current Civil Engineering student at the University of Rhode Island, works as a Math and Spanish tutor for CCRI’s Student Success Center, providing much-needed guidance and direction for students who, in many ways, are struggling as he once did in college.

“I had a lot of difficulties myself,” Cruz said, “so to be in this position where I can help others is an amazing feeling.”

Cruz finished high school in the Dominican Republic at the age of 16 before moving to Rhode Island with his father and two siblings. Unfamiliar with the culture, and limited in his ability to apply the language in the classroom, Cruz took three semesters’ worth of ESL (English as a Second Language) courses at CCRI before enrolling as a full-time student in 2018. Though not a traditional first-generation college student – his parents attended college back home – he is the first in his family to attend and earn a degree in the United States.

With a passion for engineering instilled in him since high school, Cruz earned his Associate of Science in Engineering amidst the pandemic, all while tutoring fellow students in math and Spanish. At URI, he’s on track to earn his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and plans to move forward with his master’s degree so he can one day teach.

Engineering, however, comes first; Cruz’s dream job is to become a Geotechnical Engineer, which is a branch of civil engineering centered around the behavior of earth materials. Geotechnical Engineers support design and construction by researching and studying soil, groundwater, and man-made materials to evaluate their sustainability for foundations, thereby reducing risks such as a landslides or sinkholes.

Cruz has wanted to do this since he was a teenager; he took engineering courses in high school and became fascinated with the construction of a bridge across a river in his hometown that made transportation more accessible to and from the school. But a dream only goes so far without an education, so Cruz began pursuing his passion the moment he arrived in the United States. CCRI’s flexibility and commitment to helping its student develop and improve their organizational and study skills kept Cruz on the right path as he transitioned to a full-time college student.

“The tutors at CCRI were extremely helpful,” Cruz said. “Math is all about sequences, and the courses all connect and relate to one another, so with the help of my tutors, I was able to manage my time more effectively and successfully move from one course to the next.”

Tutoring students at CCRI brings back a lot of memories for Cruz, especially when working with those who are struggling with the language, can’t fully understand the material, or simply feel overwhelmed at the college level. His best advice?

 “Patience is really important, but, realistically, you need to be productive,” Cruz said. “Many college students have a lot going on with work and school, so they’re always busy, but if you’re productive with your time, you will succeed. Stay off your phone when you’re doing work and surround yourself with people who have the same goals as you because they will really push you to be where you want to be.

“I can relate to them. I tell them all the time when they’re stressed, ‘I was in the same position you’re in. I, too, was trying to process everything.’ I remind them to come to tutoring and continue to practice so that one day it’ll come naturally to you.”

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