Principal on Mission to Supply Hard-Hit Students, Families

CORONA — Dr. Cristina Cruz has a really long grocery list!

That’s because Cruz, principal of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Academy, isn’t just shopping for herself and her family when she goes to the supermarket. She is shopping for her students and their families.

In March, Cruz organized a food drive for the families of her students, many of whom have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She estimated that of the school’s 290 students, 90 have been directly impacted by COVID-19.

“We’ve had nine deaths in our families. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our school community,” Cruz told The Tablet on May 19.

The food drive has now been running for several weeks. Cruz and her staff have everything down to a science. Local residents and some private companies have been donating food to the effort and those boxes of food are brought to the gym at Our Lady of Sorrows at 3534 105th St. in Corona. On Wednesdays, Cruz and her staff make their deliveries to the homes of students. Last week, they made 80 drop-offs in a single afternoon.

“We don’t turn down any donation,” Cruz said. “We’re grateful to anyone who wants to help us help our students.”

The students and their families are grateful when they receive the deliveries, she said. “We are a Title I school. Our families are low-income,” she said. Under the federal government’s Title I program, schools with large numbers of students from families who fall below the poverty line qualify for federal aid.

But the kids aren’t the only people who are feeling grateful these days. “It helps us, too. The truth is, when the schools were first closed and our students suddenly couldn’t come to class anymore, we missed them so much. The food drive is good for us, too, because it gives us the chance to see them,” said Cruz, who has been principal of Our Lady of Sorrows for three years.

In fact, Cruz said she came up with the idea of the food drive because she thought it would be a good way to keep in close touch with her students. “I put the idea out there and the teachers jumped at the chance to help,” she said.

COVID-19 has hit the largely Hispanic community of Corona extremely hard, Cruz said. “We have many instances where different generations live together all under one roof. When one person gets sick, it can spread very quickly through the whole house,” she said.

Nearly 50 percent of the residents living in the 11368 Zip Code area, which includes Corona, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the New York City Department of Health.

The CITY recently reported that the neighborhoods of Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst have the greatest concentration of COVID-19 cases in New York City.

There are several factors on why this is so, the CITY reported, including the fact that the three neighborhoods have many residents employed in service industry jobs, including restaurant workers and janitors, who cannot work remotely and must be physically present at their place of employment.

The food drive at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Academy will continue “as long as necessary,” Cruz said.

But she doesn’t expect a pat on the back. “We don’t deserve applause. We’re doing what we should be doing. We’re a Catholic school,” she said.

To read the latest updates regarding coronavirus concerns in the Brooklyn Diocese, go to