Accounting major Marilu Cruz, a junior at the University of Washington, is a source of inspiration.

Cruz was recently awarded Beta Alpha Psi’s Medal of Inspiration, sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs. She was given a $5,000 stipend which she plans to use to help continue her education in a master's in public accounting program.

The award is given to a student who has overcome extreme hardships and has demonstrated an unusually high level of success despite that adversity.

Cruz was raised by her grandparents under harsh economic conditions in Mexico, following the murder of her father by guerrillas when she was six years old. Cruz, who migrated to Wapato, Wash. when she was 11, struggled during her middle school years because she did not speak English. When she reached high school, Cruz improved her writing, speaking and leadership skills and committed herself to her studies and extracurricular activities.

Through the Gates Millennium Scholarship, Cruz was able to finance her college education at the University of Washington. She serves as a volunteer mentor for UW’s Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and is on the Dean’s List. Cruz is chief events officer for Beta Alpha Psi and is an intern at KPMG.