"Life is better when you pay it forward."

— Rep. Janet Cruz, Florida House of Representatives, HCC alumna

Born in Ybor City and raised near West Tampa, Representative Janet Cruz became a mother at the age of 16. Undeterred by her circumstances, she returned to graduate from high school when her daughter was just months old. Soon Cruz enrolled at HCC, where she successfully completed the opticianry program in preparation to support her family.

With help from family and friends, she built a successful franchise opticianry business. Later she decided it was time to give back to her community by representing them in state government. Today Cruz serves as the first female minority leader in the Florida legislature—a wonderful role model for young women seeking to overcome obstacles and achieve success.

Her commitment to helping others permeates every area of her life, as Cruz strives daily to bring hope and opportunity to the people of her community.