The Path of Mark Cruz
1994 - 2000: Cruz says public schools in Oregon gave him the stability he lacked living in foster homes. “When folks ask how I became a Republican, I grew up in this broken foster care system that works for too few people and needs reform.”
2008: As a junior poli sci major at Pepperdine University, scores a double D.C. internship: mornings at the Fox News Channel, afternoons with his congressman. Observes that Hill staffers barely older than him have “an exorbitant amount of authority.”
2010: Joins the corps to teach at St. Francis Indian School.
2013: As a Teach For America Capitol Hill Fellow, gets a job with Rep. Cole, often handling meetings on Common Core and appropriations requests.
2014: Meets Rep. Rokita at a cigar reception. “Mr. Rokita had just come back from Arizona, where he visited his first tribal community in his role as the education subcommittee chair, and he had all these questions. The next day I met with his legislative director for an hour.”
2015: Becomes Rokita’s legislative director, works on passing ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). “Our role was to get conservative support, which was very hard when some members saw that reauthorization bill as not conservative enough.”
2016: Promoted to Rokita’s deputy chief of staff—at age 27, one step from the top job in a House member’s office.
“There hasn’t been a Native American chief of staff in the House, so it would be pretty cool to become the first,” he says.
“We need folks who understand a variety of issues and their impact on tribes including tax policy, telecom policy, and economic development, while also looking out for tribal students. In my experience I’ve found you have to be at the table to eat, and if you’re not, you’re on the menu.”
Illustrations by Kerrianne Eames
About the Author
Susan Brenna joined One Day in 2014 as its editor-in-chief. As a writer and editor, her reporting on education has appeared in numerous publications, including New York magazine. She has worked in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, and Maryland. She lives in Brooklyn. Email Susan Brenna.