Cyrus Salazar is one of the many beneficiaries of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund helps students of Hispanic heritage obtain a college degree. Scholarships are available on a competitive basis to graduating high school seniors, community college transfer students, undergraduate and graduate students, and it was thanks to the encouragement of Dr. Laura Gutierrez Spencer that Cyrus looked into pursuing a college education through available scholarships.
Cyrus grew up in New Mexico. His father was a U.S. postal service worker while his mother stayed home to raise him and his siblings.
As he grew older, Cyrus became interested in joining the Army.
“I thought I would go to the military since my uncles and grandfather had served. Many of the people I looked up to were military veterans and it seemed like the path for me,” he said. “It was a culture of trust and respect, and I really wanted an opportunity to serve our country.”
Cyrus applied to join the armed forces when he was 18 years old, but was not able to enlist because he had broken his wrist while playing football in high school. Because he had a metal clip in his arm, recruiters told him that he did not meet requirements.
Cyrus had placed all of his hopes and dreams into joining the Army; he was devastated to learn that serving the country was no longer an option.
He began working at the local electric company and enrolled in community college. During his first semester he achieved a 3.5 grade-point average and he worked for the Chicano Program, which offers support to students of Latino descent. It was through the Chicano Program that he met Dr. Laura Gutierrez Spencer. She became his mentor and encouraged him to apply for a Hispanic Scholarship Fund scholarship, which was granted to him from 1997 to 1999. He graduated from college with a degree in communications.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund was “life-changing,” as Cyrus described it, because it allowed him to achieve a college education while opening his eyes to new opportunities.
Through an internship with a federal agency, he traveled to Washington, D.C., for the first time in 1996 and at that point he knew he wanted to work in the nation’s capital. After college graduation, he landed a position as human resources specialist level GS-7 with the National Institutes of Health and relocated to D.C. in 2001.
Proactive and career-focused, Cyrus eventually moved up in the organization. He married in 2002. Meanwhile, he began developing a professional relationship with various organizations dedicated to helping the Hispanic community such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Council of La Raza, and the National Organization for Mexican-American Rights.
In 2011, he volunteered to join the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce. Cyrus’s network of and relationships with these Hispanic organizations drew attention at work and helped him to excel in his career. In 2014, he was hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the director of the Early Resolution and Conciliation Division, where he has advanced to a Level GS-15 position.
“If you are dedicated to your job, you are able to excel in your career by having the right mindset,” he said.“It is not about you as an individual, but about serving your community.”
Cyrus plans to continue helping those in the Latino community. He believes that public service is a calling that only those who are willing to sacrifice their own interests can successfully achieve.
He is thankful for Dr. Laura Gutierrez Spencer’s encouragement as she played a major role in Cyrus’ decision to pursue the education that started him down his path.
He encourages young people to find a mentor and to seek opportunities to obtain a college education.
“Education is the foundation to any successful career,” he said. “It is something that nobody can take from you because you have earned it, and no matter where you go in life, you will always have the dedication and commitment that you put into your studies as an investment in your future. It says a lot about who you are as an individual.”
Cyrus lives in Virginia with his wife and children.
Watch this video to learn more about Cyrus.