Woodlake Union High School

Most of us can point to that one role model that helped us through the awkwardness and angst of high school. For many it is a teacher. For some a coach. For Alfonso Cruz it was a complete stranger.

During his eighth grade year, Cruz was hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting into fights and into trouble with the police. His mother moved him and his two brothers from Michoacan, Mexico when he was 5 years old to see their grandmother who was dying. After her death, they decided to stay in America and live with his father, Samuel. Soon his parents began arguing and his father began drinking.

"It was always loud and my sisters were crying," Cruz said. "It was too loud to think."

His mother did her best to support Cruz in everything he did, but it seemed like everyone else had labeled him a bad kid and a lost cause. That is, until he met Lynn Goodwin, coordinator for Friday Night Live, a program to encourage youth to live a drug, tobacco and alcohol free lifestyle.

"She changed my life," Cruz said. "She was the first person that saw any potential in me."

Goodwin convinced Cruz to participate in the California Youth Council, a four-day conference to discuss solutions to issues facing today's youth. Similarly, he joined the Tulare County Youth Coalition, a group that talks about youth issues locally.

"My mother was always there for me," he said. "Lynn was like a second mother."

With the support of his two mothers, Cruz has had a very successful high school career. His new sense of confidence allowed him to excel in the classroom (3.7 GPA) and in sports, where he was named Offensive Player of the Year for the soccer team his junior year, Most Valuable Player this year and helped the team to two Valley championships. He also played football and baseball.

He was named this year's recipient of the Kyle Goodwin Memorial Scholarship. The award is named after Lynn's son who was killed in a car accident in January 2004.

Cruz will be the first in his family to go to college. He will be attending California State University, Stanislaus in the fall majoring in criminology. He said he want to work in law enforcement as a positive force in the lives of youth as a probation officer or a counselor with the California Youth Authority.

"I want to change their lives like others have done for me," he said.

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