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Not playing small in a big world; ENMU-R alum Amy Saz completes bachelor’s and master’s at Cornell in less than 4 years

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Saz in her cap and gown at Cornell. (Submitted Photo)

It was only 3 ½ years ago when Roswell resident Amy Saz graduated with honors from ENMU-Roswell.

Holding an associate’s degree from the local community college, Saz had plans to move on with her education, but didn’t think it would be at an Ivy League school.

Then she received a letter from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, inviting her to apply.

She was accepted and awarded a financial aid package of scholarships and grants that paid for 95 percent of the university’s $63,000 annual tuition, room, meals, books and transportation costs.

It would be an understatement to say that Saz easily adapted to the challenge of academic life at an Ivy League university. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations in 2016 and received a Master of Public Administration with a focus on social policy.

“I graduated with a master’s in year and half,” she said. “Many of my undergrad classes counted toward my master’s.

Cornell is often called the “first American university.” It is both a private university and the land-grant institution of New York State, and is the most educationally diverse member of the Ivy League.

Saz was born in San Francisco and spent much of her childhood in El Salvador, where most of her family is from. She has duel citizenship and is fully bilingual.

Recently she traveled to her parent’s homeland for an extended visit. Her father is a water specialist for the Office of the State Engineer and her mother is a stay-at-home mom.

The 23-year-old has three younger brothers. Her 19-year-old brother, Carlos, is a premed student doing a global health major at Cornell.

Saz was in Roswell visiting for the holidays and reached out to the Daily Record through ENMU-R’s College Development office.

“I was one of the 55 Salvadoran youth who were part of a new initiative promoted by El Salvador’s Ministry of Foreign Relations who welcomed Salvadoran students who reside outside the country with the goal to strengthen cultural ties abroad,” she said. “Salvadoran students from Canada, the United States, Belize and Cuba convened at this camp, traveling to various sites in El Salvador including El Mozote, Morazan, a place where in 1981 a massacre executed by the government took place against more than 900 civilians during the Salvadoran Civil War, and Suchitoto, Cusclatan, which is a touristic attraction.

“I’m thankful that I was part of this initiative because it broadened my connections with Salvadoran students around the world. Revisiting El Salvador’s historical places further encouraged me to be a Salvadoran immigrant who will aim to contribute back to my immigrant community.”

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. El Salvador’s capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million, consisting largely of Mestizos of European and Indigenous American descent.

Despite being the smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has some of the highest murder rates in the world. It is also considered an epicenter of the gang crisis, along with Guatemala and Honduras.

Saz said in a 2014 interview with the Daily Record that many El Salvadorian families live on only one meal a day, without the luxuries of shoes and clothing, or air conditioning or hot water in homes.

Thousands of Central Americans each month try to illegally immigrate to the U.S. to escape the violence and the poverty. Sadly, many leave their families behind only to die before reaching the U.S. border.

For several months in 2014, hundreds of Central Americans, all mothers and children, were detained at the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Artesia after they illegally crossed the Mexico/Texas border.

Saz said not only do conditions in these countries need to improve, but also immigration laws in the U.S.

The ENMU-R and Cornell alumnus is now embarking on a paid internship with New York State that lasts through June.

Saz certainly keeps herself busy, but admits she does have some free time.

“I like Latin dancing,” she said. “I was in a Colombian dancing group at Cornell. I like to do it as a hobby.”

Saz said she is grateful to ENMU-R for its support has she pursued her dream to make the world a better place. The quote in her email signature is from Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you’re capable of living.”

Saz concluded, “ENMU-R prepared me to be a mature student who transferred to Cornell University after acquiring the Associate of Business Administration. ENMU-R’s support through their student, faculty and staff body enabled me to take part in community service and have a core academic background that were important for my acceptance to an Ivy League institution.”

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.