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De La Cruz’s political prowess earns 40 under 40 rising star

Maidel De La Cruz’s first foray into the world of politics sent her to Florida to lead grassroots support for Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She was hooked.

Now, as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Chief of Staff for the Office of City Legislative Affairs, De La Cruz ’14 is being recognized for her work as a 40 Under 40 Rising Star by City and State New York.

“I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that five years after graduating from TCNJ I would be working in one of the most powerful cities in the world, in this role, and on this list,” says De La Cruz, who advises the director of CLA and senior leadership team about city legislation for the 8.6 million people who call New York City home. “Achieving this has taught me that staying true to myself, remaining dedicated to my craft, and persevering through any obstacle does pay off.”

City and State New York’s 40 Under 40 Rising Star recognizes “lobbyists, public servants, attorneys, and marketing pros – all under the age of 40 – who are reenergizing their professions and challenging the status quo,” according to its website.

Before her time with the de Blasio administration, De La Cruz worked with Hermina Palacio, deputy mayor of health and human services, where she helped launch the city’s healthcare access program, NYC Care.

“There is no typical day-to-day for any of us working at city hall. We can never predict what will come next, but that’s the most exciting part!”

But TCNJ prepared her for all of it, she says, crediting the Educational Opportunity Fund for helping her attend college, and the communication studies department with preparing her for the unpredictability of a life in politics.

“EOF was the sole reason I was able to attend TCNJ. My success wouldn’t have been possible without it; that’s where this all started,” she says. “The communication studies department taught me how to be an effective communicator and listener, which is embedded in the fabric of this work.”

Wanting others to see her face and story, a Latina woman making a difference in the world, De La Cruz hopes the award can be used as professional tinder for others wanting to pursue similar passions.

“In the same way this honor is a symbol to me, it is also a symbol to young women of color back at home in New Jersey, and at TCNJ, that they too can make the impossible possible,” she says. “I want to share this moment and this achievement with them. They inspire me to push past my fears and give my all every day. I hope they can see themselves in my success and chase after their wildest dreams, too.”

— David Pavlak, with reporting by Nina Navazio ’21

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