Conard Student Receives U.S. Senate Honor

Natalie DeLaCruz (second from left) with Conard Principal Julio Duarte and (from left) Assistant Principal Tor FIske and guidance counselor Adam Linker. Courtesy photo

A senior at West Hartford’s Conard High School has been selected for the U.S. Senate Youth Recognition Program, which includes a $10,000 scholarship and participation in “Washington Week.”

Conard senior Natalie DeLaCruz was surprised Thursday when she was informed that she is one of two from the state accepted into the U.S. Senate Youth Recognition program. At right are Stephen Armstrong from the Connecticut Department of Education and Social Studies Department Supervisor Jessica Blitzer. Screenshot by Kristina Vakhman

By Kristina Vakhman

West Hartford is leading in making leaders: for the third year in a row, a local high school student has been selected for the United States Senate Youth Recognition program. This time, it’s Conard High School senior Natalie DeLaCruz.

“I just screamed,” DeLaCruz said. “It was a dream come true because I’ve been working for this since freshman year.”

The U.S Senate Youth Recognition is awarded to two high school students from each state with unique educational experiences and interests in pursuing careers in public service.

DeLaCruz, who was surprised with the announcement Thursday, was recognized for her involvement in and outside of Conard, which includes internships with the Connecticut legislature, phone banking, school club leadership, and mental health activism.

“What stood out for you was the passion that you showed, the intelligence and the integrity. I really think you are outstanding,” Stephen Armstrong of the Connecticut Department of Education told DeLaCruz during a makeshift announcement ceremony over Google Meet on Thursday.

It wasn’t only DeLaCruz’s passion and involvement that set her apart. Conard Social Students Department Supervisor Jessica Blitzer said DeLaCruz caught her eye because of her determination to take classes on and learn what hasn’t always attracted female students, like modern warfare.

“We do not get so many young women who take that class. You’re going to represent West Hartford and Conard really well,” Blitzer told her.

As part of the recognition, DeLaCruz will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship and will take part in Washington Week, which is all-virtual this year and scheduled for March 14-18. Normally, students would travel to D.C. to meet legislators and even the president, but DeLaCruz said she’s already gotten to meet incredible people online.

DeLaCruz knows exactly how she’ll spend that scholarship money and what she wants to do in the future: she plans to study political science and public health, work for a nonprofit that deals with immigrant health and, eventually, run for office. COVID-19 won’t stop her.

“It is pretty difficult, but we’re getting through it,” DeLaCruz said. “I am feeling very, very excited.”

Natalie DeLaCruz (center) with her parents, Laura and Cedric. Courtesy photo

Natalie DeLaCruz with Conard Principal Julio Duarte. Courtesy photo

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