Cristo Rey Boston High School

News & Features » Alex Bonano ‘13 Receives the 2021 Holy Cross Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Leadership Award

Alex Bonano ‘13 Receives the 2021 Holy Cross Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Leadership Award

Alex's story is part of our ONE GOAL | MANY DREAMS Fundraising Campaign. Your support sustains a full scholarship, academically rigorous college-prep high school for students from under-resourced communities, where barriers to student success are minimized.
“What do you want to do with this gift you were given?” asked June Cuomo, an Ignatian volunteer at Cristo Rey Boston.
When reflecting on his freshman year at Cristo Rey Boston High School (CRB) Alex Bonano recalls it was the first time he was asked what his own expectations were for his journey. “Coming from a family that highly valued education, it was expected of me and my siblings that we would get good grades. This was the first time I was challenged to define what I wanted for myself. That question sparked an understanding that I had the power to define my pathway forward.” 
Recently awarded the 2021 Holy Cross Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Leadership Award, Alex feels a deep connection to the BIPOC students who arrive on the Holy Cross campus each Fall and is committed to being a mentor. He noted his biggest challenge is “figuring out how can I be a support to students of color in making the transition to – this is my school and my education.” Recalling that “it was a shock when you’re the only person of color in a classroom, and your eyes are opened to the economic disparities between yourself and other classmates, it takes a while to feel settled. My goal is to help students move through those transitions and take full advantage of their Holy Cross experience.”
Now a student at Tuft’s Medical School, earning a Master's in Public Health, Alex is interested in how public policy can create “equitable outcomes for all populations in the United States.” He noted that often viewpoints of the marginalized are not reflected in policies and procedures in the healthcare space. “When you bring interpersonal relationships into the equation, really working with populations to understand the obstacles they face in accessing healthcare, that’s when you can create the most efficient public policies.” His interest in public health was sparked by a medical internship he was offered following his first year at Holy Cross. Initially on a pre-med track, he traveled to India on a program that allowed him to shadow doctors in the ER.
How exactly does a kid from Roxbury afford a trip to India? Bonano chuckles when he recalls how he made the trip happen. “Throughout my time in the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) at Cristo Rey Boston we were taught the importance of networking. From the beginning, I took that advice to heart, and always stayed in touch with my different supervisors from Staples and State Street.” He recalled that he would check in periodically, just to let them know how classes were going, or to ask questions about the college application process. Noting that during his senior year, his State Street co-workers were incredibly helpful with the college application process, reading essays and helping him understand the financial awards, he decided to take all his workplace connections at their word when they said, “if you ever need anything.”  With his mom’s encouragement, he created a Go Fund Me page, reached out to CRB and CWSP connections, and raised the money necessary for the trip to India. 
While in India, he witnessed many patients suffering from pesticide poisoning, because they were not informed of the need to wear protective equipment while spraying their crops. Bonano suggested informational postings in the local hospital emergency room.  After returning to Holy Cross and speaking to his advisor, it became apparent that his real interest was public health, and he began the process of creating his own major. 
With the spark ignited, Alex went on to study abroad in Costa Rica his senior year, investigating neglected tropical diseases.   There he set out to create a platform where residents of rural communities could be informed of the preventative measures necessary to keep healthy. Following his graduation from Holy Cross, he spent two years working at Cristo Rey Brooklyn High School as a Health Educator. While living in Brooklyn, Alex once again saw the impact when community voices are not considered when health policy is being made. Through his interactions with students and their families, who had unequal access to preventive medical care and prescription drugs, Alex again could see the lack of community voices in public policy conversations. 
Currently, Alex is discerning his next steps after his graduation from Tufts.   Deeply interested in the impact of poverty on health, he is unsure where he will end up. But he is confident that the maturity he developed at Cristo Rey Boston and the experiences he had as part of the CWSP program have served him well. Ms. Cuomo’s probing question set off a ripple effect of “figuring out that I wanted success for myself, and then taking the steps necessary to getting to where I wanted to be. Being asked to be a leader, both inside and outside the classroom, set me on a journey of discovery that I am still engaged in. I am excited for my future and curious about what is next.”