Non-native speaker Claudia Saldivar-Cruz earns RCBC Academic Award in English
Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Claudia Saldivar-Cruz

For some, creativity is an outlet. For Claudia Saldivar-Cruz, it’s a lifestyle. She is always working on a project, whether it be making jewelry, cake decorating, making pinatas, doodling intricate mandalas and zen art or creating papier mache sculptures. She has also recently taken up painting.

“I cannot stop; nature inspires me to create, and for that, any medium becomes a great one,” Claudia mused.  

Saldivar-Cruz, of Mexican descent, came to the United States in 2003. A single mother of five children, she courageously left behind a domestic violence relationship and sought a better life for both herself and her kids. She completed her high school equivalency degree at Rowan College at Burlington County in 2017.

“I never attended high school and never learned the English language formally. I learned in conversations with whoever would talk to me. My goal back then was to become a receptionist, so I needed my GED, but once there, staff encouraged me to go to college,” said Claudia.  

Since earning her GED, Claudia began pursuing a degree in English. In fact, she has said that she cannot envision herself doing anything other than writing. Her passion for American history, culture and literature helped her to maintain a good GPA and earned her the Academic Award in English at RCBC’s 2019 Commencement.

“Claudia has excelled in all facets of literary study: critical reading and writing, creative writing, cultural function and theoretical dialogue. Her success is noteworthy, especially as a non-native speaker. Claudia’s academic skill set is inspiring,” said Dr. Jonathan M. Alexander, associate professor of English and Literature.

A relentless wordsmith, in her spare time, Saldivar-Cruz writes poetry, stories and is also working on a book. She presented one of her poems in the college’s 2018 talent show and was amazed by the way it resonated with the audience.

Claudia, like so many others, intends to continue her education through RCBC’s 3+1 program. Her ultimate goal is to work for a non-profit organization that helps victims of domestic violence and supports parents of children with special needs, as one of her children is on the autism spectrum.

“Two years after getting my GED and starting college, I still can't believe I am here, among young college students, and furthermore, getting good grades and having conversations with my professors. College has been a dream experience for me; it is an honor and a privilege. All I can say is that if you ever doubt you can achieve a goal that seems impossible, just look at me. I am here to tell you, go ahead, give the first step. If I can, you can do it too,” said Claudia.

Claudia's story is part of RCBC’s 50 stories for 50 years. In honor of the college’s 50th anniversary, RCBC is profiling students, faculty, administrators, alumni and the college community. Anyone interested in being featured can contact To follow along on social media, use #RCBC50Stories.