Commemorating campus legends: Ernesto Cruz’s impact on our community

Commemorating+campus+legends%3A+Ernesto+Cruzs+impact+on+our+community

Gopala Varadarajan

Exuberant. Energetic. Optimistic. Palo Alto High School history teacher John Bungarden used these words to describe Campus Supervisor Ernesto Cruz, who passed away at age 55 on Mar. 19. Cruz will be remembered as a beloved campus supervisor and a pillar of the Paly community, from ensuring students’ safety in his trusty golf cart to beaming his smile as they passed. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Cruz, and his daughter, Eliana Cruz.

“Ernesto was one of the most genuinely kind people on the Paly campus,” Senior Class President Mathew Signorello-Katz said. “He went out of his way to make everyone’s day just a little bit better.”

According to Cruz from a Verde Magazine interview last fall, he grew up playing soccer in the streets of El Salvador, his birthplace, but was forced to move to the Bay Area during the Salvadoran Civil War. After tirelessly working to improve his English at the San Francisco Community College, Cruz was hired in 2004 as a Paly campus supervisor and later as the girl’s varsity soccer coach. 

“I was one of the only two freshmen on the team, but I still feel like he really listened when I was talking,” senior Katherine Thomsen said. “He always made time for me and was really respectful … I always really appreciated that.”

As a soccer coach, Cruz was motivated not by the goal of winning numerous games, but by making a genuine difference in the lives of the players he coached. 

“That’s my passion, to have a kid who nobody wants and give them hope [to] start enjoying the game,” Cruz said in an interview with Verde Magazine last year.


“More than any job title, Ernesto was a friend, a friend to the students, the faculty, the Palo Alto community. I think that everyone can be a little more like Ernesto.”

— Mathew Signorello-Katz, Senior Class President


Not only did Cruz form strong relationships with his athletes on the soccer field, he became the friend of countless Paly students and staff, if not everyone.

“It always just made my day to know that I could rely and count on seeing this super friendly guy every day at school,” junior Elizabeth Fetter said.

As campus supervisor, Cruz also provided assistance to students in addition to his amiable character.

“I was driving around by myself and I got stuck in a bush … and Ernesto thankfully found me, and he offered to get in my car and pull it out safely,” junior Anna Markesky said.

Students and teachers alike said they feel a void on campus without Cruz’s exuberant presence.

“There’s an emptiness not seeing him and not talking to him,” sociology teacher Benjamin Bolanos said. “It’s a big loss for us; you can definitely feel it.”

Signorello-Katz said the best way for the community to honor Cruz’s life is to internalize his kind and gracious spirit.

“More than any job title, Ernesto was a friend, a friend to the students, the faculty, the Palo Alto community,” Signorello-Katz said. “I think that everyone can be a little more like Ernesto.”

Please consider donating to this Go-Fund-Me page created by Cruz’s friends and family.