CIF Alumni Spotlight: Cristopher Cruz

Cristopher Cruz

Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High School

I am Cristopher Cruz. I am a college student with the hope of one day freeing the world from nuclear threats.

My foray into the world of disarmament and nonproliferation was a unique one. As a child, I was fascinated with science fiction movies from the 1950’s and 1960’s, such as Godzilla and Planet of the Apes; these films had disguised their political commentary on nuclear threats with fictitious characters and monsters, but the themes they conveyed felt very real to me. Given my inquisitive nature and supportive family, I was encouraged to read not only fiction, but current events as well, developing my interest in the more practical and real-world things that surrounded me. I remember the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant partial meltdown in 2011, it was a terrifying time to be a child and I read as much as my small brain could handle to understand the consequences of this incident. I felt powerless and at the mercy of the natural world, but just like the news, I moved on.

Except I never did, because I would once again have an opportunity to learn more about the term nuclear outside of monster movies and brief news articles. I was introduced to the Critical Issues Forum (CIF) thanks to Andrew King, who has been a CIF instructor for quite some time. His teaching style and passion for disarmament, combined with my interest in learning more about this line of work, went well together like bread and butter, especially since I was just a high schooler with no clear roadmap for my academic career. I joined CIF in my third year of high school. I was ecstatic to know that I would be traveling to Nagasaki, Japan, one of the only two cities that have experienced a war time nuclear devastation, for this conference. I distinctly remember the excitement of visiting a country that has had a significant impact on my life and has historical significance. In addition to that, I was traveling on behalf of a group of students working towards disarmament, so I was beyond honored. CIF not only broke down the scientific and technical aspects of nuclear weapons for me, but it also helped me understand the more complicated political framework and discussions surrounding them. It was there that I became familiarized with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and their efforts to rid the world of nuclear testing. I was delighted to meet Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO and hear testimonies of his experiences and work; I was even more surprised to hear about their “youth group” initiative, of which I am now a part.

It was thanks to this experience that I finally realized that I no longer feel as helpless and scared as I was back when the Fukushima incident occurred. My brain clicked, and I said to myself, we can do something about this, and the CTBTO Youth Group is just one of many initiatives out there that prove it. Mr. King, a classmate, and I had created Nuclear Free Schools as part of our project for the conference, but we had no idea if it would catch on. Our surprise came in June of 2017, when Dr. Lassina Zerbo invited me to the CTBTO’s Science and Technology Conference in Vienna, Austria, to showcase our Nuclear Free Schools project. Since then, our Nuclear Free Schools initiative has been working hard on teaching other high school students about nuclear literacy and setting the example for other schools to follow suit and declare themselves nuclear testing/weapons free zones. Students in this club at Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High (my old high school) are now going to talks, debates, and even events around the world to share their research and passion for disarmament.

As for me, I am currently working on transferring to a 4-year university to obtain a degree in global studies/policy for my undergraduate experience. I may not know where I end up afterwards, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up pursuing higher levels of education after that. Academics aside, I am the new Nuclear Free Schools administrator and am balancing my own personal blog at “The Atomic Scholar” where I hope to archive and share my experiences in this line of work. Additionally, I am still a member of the CTBTO Youth Group and non-frequent contributor to their Newsroom team, where I hope to be of service in helping the treaty get off the ground and enter into force.

I am forever grateful for the existence of this program for I have met many wonderful people, both young and old. I still cherish the friendships and connections I have forged and can only stress the importance and impact this program has had on my life; I’d like to give back to it if I can. I am the youth of today, but one day I will no longer be, and I just hope that I have laid some groundwork for others to follow suit and/or improve to make progress toward a more peaceful and secure world free of nuclear weapons.