By Karen Cortés
Rick Cruz updated his Facebook status Friday night with three simple words: “She said yes!” Cruz was ready with “rock” in hand when he popped the question to his now-fiancé Veronica Feliciano at the couple’s favorite tapas bar. The pair met while doing community volunteer work in his native Bridgeport. “Veronica is tolerant and supportive. She believes in the work that I do,” says Cruz. That’s a good thing, because Cruz’s schedule is enough to test the patience of the most loving wife!
By night, Cruz is a respiratory care therapist at St. Vincent Medical Center, where he works 12-hour shifts in the emergency room. By day, he’s a commissioner of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) of the State of Connecticut, and a dedicated volunteer for the City of Bridgeport.
“Being part of the community takes sacrifice. I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing. I want to make sure that we continue to rise up and be an important part of our society,” says Cruz.
Cruz’s start in politics came as a campaign volunteer for State Sen. Edwin Gomes, who was elected to office in 2005. “I was never one to be involved, but I learned the importance of politics and voting,” says Cruz. He was subsequently elected to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee and the Bridgeport Harbor Commission, and has served on several review and selection committees for the city, including the one that recommended the selection of Bridgeport’s new police chief.
Cruz’s dedication to public service came “later in life,” as he describes it. After his aunt died of asthma-related complications, he approached St. Vincent’s about doing asthma education with patients. Soon he was offered a part-time grant-funded position in asthma education with Park City Primary Care, and Cruz ran the asthma program with the Bridgeport school system through 2005.
“From there, it was community life,” says Cruz. He is a co-founding member and vice president of Greater Bridgeport Latino Network, but he is proudest he says, of his appointment as a commissioner of LPRAC, a 21-member non-partisan commission mandated to make recommendations to the Connecticut General Assembly and the Governor for new or enhanced policies that will foster progress in achieving health, safety, educational success, economic self-sufficiency, and end discrimination in Connecticut.
On Oct. 10, LPRAC is sponsoring the 2012 Latino Civil Rights Conference, featuring discussions with legal experts about housing and lending discrimination, human trafficking, and language access issues.
Today, Cruz is working on the campaign of State Rep. Andres Ayala, who is seeking election to the State Senate this November. “I’m looking forward to having Connecticut’s first Latino representing us in the Senate,” says Cruz. “It’s about what needs to be done. I’ll continue to do my part to advance my community and our kids.”
Cruz been recognized for dedicating time and energy to the Hispanic Heritage Committee, the American Lung Association, National Kidney Foundation and received the John and Louise Award from the CT Society of Respiratory Care for Outstanding Contributions to the Profession for starting an asthma program in Bridgeport.
In his free time Rick plays pool and golf and loves listening to Latin Music. He is a graduate of Central HS in Bridgeport and holds a A.S. in Respiratory Therapy from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
The 2012 Latino Civil Rights Conference will be held on Wednesday, October 10 from 1 to 5:30 p.m. at the Legislative Office Building, Room 2C, 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford. RSVP by phone at 860-240-8330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.