De La Cruz is making history with her welding. Just 18 years old, De La Cruz became Lee County’s first female student to receive an American Welding Society certification. She is now working full-time at Direct Industrial Products and Machining in Labelle, succeeding in a field that is approximately 95 percent male, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. She received a number of sideways looks from people who found out she was going into welding, including from her own family. Her teachers encouraged her to pursue welding, the fusing of metals together. She credits Jerriel Filler, her welding instructor at East Lee County High School, and her instructors at Fort Myers Technical College (where she did dual enrollment) for spurring her on to success. Cruz also credits Future Makers Coalition for connecting her with Direct in Labelle, who offered her a job after graduation, a job that Filler believes she is uniquely suited for.