EagLead Builds Skills and Lifelong Connections

Yicel De La Cruz, a 22-year-old visual communications design major, has made it a goal since high school to continually grow her leadership abilities. 

Back at her high school in Waterville, Washington, she served as an officer in student government and as president of a service club that helped to support the community.

So, when De La Cruz came to Eastern and became president of the Visual Communications Design Club (VCDC), she was an ideal candidate for EagLead, EWU’s student leadership program.

“Taking a leadership role is something I want to continue to do throughout my career,” says De La Cruz, who is in her senior year.

EagLead is currently accepting applications from students who, like De La Cruz, want to take their leadership skills to the next level. The noncredited certificate program, hosted by the EWU Student Organizations & Leadership Program, is also looking for faculty and staff members to mentor students for the fall program, which is held throughout November.

EagLead, which aims to develop confidence, communication and networking skills, offers workshops for a cohort of students and one-on-one mentorship with adults who are accomplished professionally.

De la Cruz, who has a work-study position as a designer for EWU, wholeheartedly recommends the program, saying it made her aware of a range of personality traits and how to work with different types of people. She was impressed with an empathy workshop that taught her to focus on commonalities.

“We might think there is nothing that ties us together, sometimes, but there is always something,” she adds.

Her favorite EagLead experience, though, was getting a mentor-mentee pairing with Kim Davis, senior director for diversity and inclusion.

Davis helped De La Cruz, who had recently earned an associate of arts degree at Columbia Basin College, overcome concerns about attending Eastern, which is located three hours from her hometown in an unfamiliar community. De La Cruz, whose mother and father immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, says that no one in her immediate family had ever moved from their small community to attend college. She feared that her culture wouldn’t be represented on campus and that she might, as a result, feel isolated.

That all changed when she called the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and shared her concerns with Davis, who offered to personally take her on a tour of Eastern’s Cheney campus.

De la Cruz told her mom about the conversation and they made plans to visit campus. On arrival, they connected with Davis, who shared her Latino culture, for the tour. De La Cruz and her mother soon learned more about Eastern’s welcoming and diverse culture. Their visit quickly put De La Cruz’s fears to rest, and helped her worried mom feel comfortable sending her daughter away to college.

When De La Cruz started EagLead in winter of 2021, a random mentor-mentee pairing reconnected De La Cruz with Davis.

“It was so amazing that I got paired up with Kim. What a coincidence!”

De La Cruz has learned a lot from Davis and values her mentorship as a Hispanic woman who is accomplished both in her professional role at Eastern and as a local business owner.

“She definitely continues to be a mentor to me and an inspiration to me,” De La Cruz says.

Here’s how to get involved with EagLead as a student or mentor:

Students can apply to EagLead online. Faculty and staff can also nominate students for the program. The deadline to apply is Friday, Oct. 14. 

Faculty and staff members interested in serving as student mentors in November, can contact Elise Brehmer at ebrehmer1@ewu.edu.

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