When Francisca Cruz moved to New York City from the Dominican Republic in 2016, she started working to fulfill a long-standing dream: becoming fluent in English. “I had the grammar,” she says. “I could write, but I couldn’t speak.”
Cruz – who came to the city seeking a better opportunity to create a family within the LGBTQ community – enrolled in English courses at the YMCA and Brooklyn College, then studied with a tutor one-on-one. Meanwhile, she worked as a freelance publicist, crafting social and communications strategies for clients in finance, banking and human resources, among others.
Then, in early 2019, she joined J Strategies Inc. at “an amazing moment,” says Cruz, who worked with the mobile health screening program Roadmap to Health, which took her into communities throughout the five boroughs, Long Island and New Jersey. “This opportunity came about the time when I was able to speak English,” she says. “Most of those communities are Spanish speakers and people of color, Black communities. … I understand what they are going through.”
Roadmap to Health went national in 2020 and has since moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the early days of the program, Cruz says she enjoyed speaking with young people at block parties and community events. “As a Latina, Spanish-speaking woman of color, queer, it is important for me to connect with people, especially the youngest ones,” she says. “To share my story, trying to empower them.”