Leonardo Ruiz Sánchez, A22

School: School of Arts and Sciences 

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Community Health  

Tisch College connections: Tufts 1+4 Bridge Year program, Tisch Scholar


What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in yourself since coming to Tufts? 

I was born in Mexico and my family moved to Tennessee when I was five. I struggled there; my parents don’t speak English well, so I was left to my own devices. Being in the South, it was insanely difficult being a person of color.  

Now, I’m the vice president of the United for Immigrant Justice club. Looking back, I was scared my first year; I was a little shy and didn’t want to take up space. But now, running the meetings and planning events, I feel like a leader. For a lot of first-gen and low-income people, it’s hard to claim a title. One of the coolest things a professor—Grace Talusan—said to me was, “A lot of people just claim being experts on things because they read something somewhere.” That’s power and privilege. So just claiming that has been really powerful for me.  

What was the best part of your Tisch Scholars experience?  

The program gathers the coolest people, and everyone is so passionate about what they’re going to do.  

For my placement, I worked at Thrive Alabama. It’s really the leader in the South in LGBTQIA+ health. I interviewed patients, “Humans of New York”-style, to capture their normalcy. LGBTQIA+ health is stigmatized, so I wanted to show everyone that these are people who deserve health care access. I’ve used Thrive’s services when I didn’t feel comfortable going to my primary care doctor. That’s why I wanted to amplify their work: so other people can get the help they need.  

How was your bridge year in Brazil, part of your Tufts 1+4 program in Tisch College?  

I’d never been on a flight before. The experience opened my eyes a lot. I worked at a health resource center for people living with HIV, as well as other low-income people. I saw how the nonprofit struggled because of lack of resources and funds.  

That year was also filled with adventures—I met some of my best friends there, including one I’m living with now. I did one of the toughest hikes called Pedra de Gavea, which includes sections where you have to rock-climb. We got this panoramic view of Rio at the top, and it was just amazing.  

This profile originally appeared as part of the series “Profiles in Inspiration: Commencement 2022 Spotlights."

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