That is the only way to describe Cristina Maria Arriaza’s schedule.
But no matter how hectic her life gets, she would not change it for the world.
“Since she began to talk and could understand what the adults would say, she would always be in their business,” her father said. “Whenever anyone would say they had to do something, she always jumped and wanted to do it herself, no matter how heavy, how high, how difficult or impossible for her age.”
“She really wasn’t a problem child,” her mother said. “The most trouble she ever gave was waking up in the mornings, which she hates, and always wanting to do what her much older siblings did that obviously weren’t appropriate for her age.
“She always wanted to be older than she really was.”
“My college experience wouldn’t have been so memorable without my involvement,” Arriaza said. “I have made long-lasting friendships, connections and everlasting memories.”
“I am proud of her all-around character: her sweetness, her tenacity, enthusiasm, creative ideas, constant search for change and improvement, that she is a wonderful friend, sister, aunt and an exemplary daughter,” her father said. “I see that the family being together and helping each other is something that she enjoys and we enjoy from her as well.
“It all began when she was appointed in charge of the household between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Under her command were two Cuban senile grandmothers of about 70 years as compared to her simple age of 7. I guess this is where it all began. Today she is a confident and assertive leader with a creative zest that conquers all.”
“I am most proud of her drive to be better, not only herself, but to make the things she participates in better as well,” her mother said. “Barriers do not exist for her. She’s not afraid of anything.”
Arriaza is a 21-year-old senior at UM majoring in Spanish with minors in business and Portuguese.
Currently, Arriaza is the vice-president for the Federacion de Estudiantes Cubanos [Federation of Cuban Student] in which she has participated since her sophomore year.
Within the organization she works on event-planning and making sure that everything falls into place and runs efficiently.
She also keeps an eye on all of the committees and acts as the president’s right hand.
“She exhibits incredible leadership skills but doesn’t consider herself at the top of the food chain,” Melissa Matos said. “Approaching Cristy is never an issue, whether it is a personal or an organizational inquiry.”
Arriaza is also the marketing coordinator for Committee on Student Organizations and an orientation staff member.
She was a member of the Student Government Senate for one year and represented the Cuban and Cuban American constituency and was part of the Hispanic Heritage Month Committee in 2001.
In the past, she has participated in Thanksgiving Cans Collection, Holiday Hope Tree, Toys for Tots, Latin Day and Funday.
“She can always be depended on to finish whatever she has started,” Rafael Birriel said. “If she volunteers for a job, one can always expect her to accomplish her objective.”
On top of school activities, Arriaza also volunteers at the Sts. Peter and Paul fair, Calle Ocho, and with senior citizens at Domino Park in Little Havana.
For five years, she also taught children religion in preparation for their first communion.
“I volunteer because it gives me a sense of purpose; I am using my time in a productive manner to help others,” she said. “I gain even more out of the experience than those I am helping.”
Arriaza also finds time to work at Gilbert’s Bakery, a popular local bakery that her family owns. There, she helps to coordinate events for the employees, including such activities as community meetings.
“I believe she always shows her leadership and ability to make people do things correctly and quickly according to her discretion,” her father said. “At work, she is an incredible sales associate. Many customers say she can sell a freezer to a penguin.”
Arriaza says that during the holiday season, she may work as many as 60 to 70 hours a week at the bakery.
“The balance is difficult,” she said. “It takes incredible time management skills and prioritizing.”
“I must force myself to assess each situation in a manner that will lead to the improvement of my overall character.”
In her free time, Arriaza hangs out with friends, goes to the movies or to the Grove, sings Karaoke and makes ceramics.
Arriaza will be graduating from UM in May 2003.
She is looking forward to getting a job in her field while simultaneously making some changes in her family’s bakery.
Kathleen Fordyce can be contacted at K4Dice@aol.com.