Scholarship winner Daniela Milian-Cavenecia and her daughter Sofia

Daniela Milian-Cavenecia, a junior at UC Berkeley, has been awarded the first Zachary Michael Cruz Memorial Scholarship, which was established to preserve the memory of Zachary Cruz, who was run over and killed by a truck on a crosswalk in Berkeley in 2009 when he was five years old.

Frank Cruz, Zachary’s father, said he is thrilled they have found such a worthy candidate for the inaugural scholarship, which is worth $5,000 and will be awarded every semester.

“Daniela is a great student and has a great story,” he said.

Milian-Cavenecia, a single mother who transfered to Cal from Berkeley City College, is an undergraduate in Hispanic Languages and Bilingual Issues. Along with her academic achievements to date, she also has a history of community service, including as a volunteer interpreter for the cities of Berkeley and Oakland.

Frank Cruz was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in 2003. He transferred to Cal from a community college in southern California when Zachary was just three months old. The scholarship, which will be awarded every semester and is funded by Zachary’s parents, Frank and Jodie Cruz, from an endowment associated with the accident lawsuit, aims to support transfer students or student parents from Ventura County or the San Francisco Bay Area — both places the family lived in with their son.

“Transfer and parent students are some of the hardest working students on campus,” said Frank Cruz. “I have been through that — being a parent and a student and having financial hardship.” Cruz said they wanted the scholarship — which is a collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Transfer, Re-entry and Student Parent Center (TRSP) — to reflect his experience.

He added that many people at Cal knew Zachary and that he was proud that the scholarship would enable Zachary’s memory to be kept alive every semester. “It feels incredibly good to be able to do it this way,” he said.

Zachary Cruz at his preschool graduation

Zachary Cruz was walking from Le Conte Elementary School to an after-school program at Emerson School, with other children and supervised by teachers, when he was struck and killed by a truck on the crosswalk at the intersection of Derby Street and Warring Street in the Elmwood neighborhood on February 27 2009.

The Zachary Michael Cruz Foundation, set up by Zachary’s parents after his passing, focuses on pedestrian safety in Berkeley. It collaborates with the Berkeley Police Department on awareness and enforcement initiatives. In March 2010, the City of Berkeley declared the month of March as the Zachary Cruz Pedestrian Safety Month.

An informal memorial to Zachary was set up near the spot where he died after the incident and it has been maintained over the years since then, with toys, candy, flowers and photographs brought there as offerings. In November 2010, after the spot was decorated for Dia de los Muertos with some “stealth knitting”, Frank Cruz wrote an open letter about the memorial and his son which was published on Berkeleyside.

Milian-Cavenecia said the scholarship had helped open doors that she would not have been able to open alone. She hopes to go on to study for a Master’s Degree in Jurisprudence and Social Policy after she finishes her Bachelor’s Degree at Cal.

Making safer streets in memory of little boy [03.30.11]
Street named for boy killed by car [12.08.10]
Memorial to Zachary Cruz: A note from his father [11.04.10]
Memorial to 5-year-old revived [11.02.10]
Berkeley intersection memorial to a life cut short [02.28.10]
Police focus on pedestrians [03.03.10]
Streetside memorial to 5-year-old killed by truck [10.27.09]

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...