School mourns loss of Ernesto Cruz, longtime campus supervisor, coach

The Viking community is shocked by the sudden passing of campus supervisor and soccer coach Ernesto Cruz. According to Christa Brown, administrative assistant to the principal, Cruz will be remembered for his enthusiastic and caring nature “He cared deeply about people,” Brown said. “He wanted to know all that was going on and he never forgot names. He would do anything for anyone and always had a smile on his face.” (Photo: Anushe Irani)

Editor’s note: Ernesto’s friends and family created this Go-Fund-Me page for those willing to donate.

The Viking community is grieving this week after the sudden loss of Ernesto Cruz, a popular campus supervisor and soccer coach, who passed away Saturday at the age of 55 due to a heart attack. 

Students, including sophomore Clara Persson, are stunned by the loss.

“I was very shocked when I found out, because he was just someone I saw on campus everyday and now we’re not going to see him again,” Persson said.

Palo Alto High School’s Associative Student Body held a card signing Monday on the Quad. The cards were to be sent to Cruz’s wife, daughter, and mother as well as his extended family in El Salvador. Senior Class President Mathew Signorello-Katz said ASB held the signing to honor Cruz’s memory and allow students to help his family, and themselves, through this tough time.

“It’s going to take a while for Paly to recover,” Signorello-Katz said. “This activity is really just the beginning of recognizing the wonderful person that Ernesto was and all he did for the Paly community.”

According to junior Kieran Zajac, who developed a relationship with Cruz through a profile he wrote for Verde Magazine in December, Cruz’s caring nature and investment in students’ lives stood out to him.

“With every single kid or staff member that he talked to, he was always invested,” Zajac said. “He would always make a conscious effort to think about what does this person like or what have we talked about before …. He asked very personal things that just showed that he cared a lot about everybody that he met.”

Junior Jonathan Wang said he agrees that Cruz’s kindness was something special, and something both staff and students will continue to cherish. 

“He left such a big impact on the people at this school, including me, because of his bright personality,” Wang said. “In an environment so competitive and draining, it was relieving to have a person on campus that went out of their way to make other people’s day better.”   

Zajac said Cruz has left an impact on everyone who came through Paly in the 18 years he worked here and will continue to do so in the years to come.

“I truly think that he has made a difference in everybody,” Zajac said. “In the students’ lives, in the staffs’ lives and in all parts of the school community, his loss and departure from the Paly community will be felt by everybody.” 

According to Made Into America, an archive for immigrant stories coordinated by the Mid-peninsula Community Media Center, Cruz joined the Palo Alto High School staff in 2004 but was born and raised in El Salvador. He immigrated to the United States when he was 19 with his family due to fear of the corruption and violence in El Salvador. It wasn’t easy for Cruz — he struggled to make ends meet and he spoke little English. But despite these obstacles, Cruz began taking classes at City College of San Francisco to learn English, and was then offered the job of campus supervisor at Palo Alto High School.

According to Cruz, the job was his “American dream.”

“One of the reasons why I appreciate this school and why I would do anything for this school is because they changed my life,” Cruz said in an interview with Made Into America. “They made my American dream.”

Additionally, Cruz was the head coach for Paly girls’ varsity soccer for nearly 15 years. He began as an adult professional soccer coach but transitioned to youth soccer when he started coaching at Alpine Strikers Football Club in 2005. In his early years at Alpine, Cruz took several of his teams to El Salvador to play soccer and partake in humanitarian service by running soccer gear drives. 

Christa Brown, administrative assistant to the principal, worked with Cruz for the past eight years and said she remembers Cruz for his optimistic attitude and infectiously positive personality. 

“When I would get to work every morning he would always save me a parking spot right in front,” Brown said. “It was just one of the special things he did for me.” 

According to Brown, Cruz’s effort to get to know every student on campus made his impact on the Paly community vast. 

“He got to know students and staff personally and that was how he made everyone around him feel special,” Brown said. 

Following Cruz’s passing, Principal Brent Kline published a statement for students and staff on Sunday. 

“We encourage you [students] to support each other and take care of yourself too,” Kline said. “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to you all, Ernesto’s family, and friends.” 

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