The children ranged in age from 7 to 14 and represented four area schools. Each was given a $100 gift card from the rotary club and chosen to take part in the program for good deeds and their financial background, club board member Albert Hernandez said.
“The kids were chosen from low-income families, but these are kids who really deserve it by doing good things throughout the year,” he said. “The whole idea is to have kids and officers partner and send that message that cops aren’t out to get us, cops are here to help out. This is a partnership between police in the city and the kids.”
That partnership was illustrated, in part, by Officer Edmundo Zepada and the two brothers that slowly walked the aisle with a cart full of clothes, games and presents for themselves and family members.
“I want to be a cop,” said R.J. De Hoyos, 9, a third-grader at Washington Elementary school. “They’re cool.”
R.J. and his 8-year-old brother, Johnny, a second-grader at the same school, picked out jeans, skateboarding equipment and a surprise doll for their baby brother.
Shopping was at the forefront of the children’s minds, but doling out lessons was also on the to-do list for some of the officers.
“I’m more of a counselor to these kids than a police officer,” said Zepada, a school resource officer and former Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Development counselor. “When I was working at the parks, the kids always saw officers as bad in their eyes. Now, they really appreciate us. You don’t see that in other cities.”
One of the student’s whose respect increased was 12-year-old Pamela Pearce, a seventh-grader at John Muir Middle School.