Interest in learning more about law enforcement is so strong at Central Valley High School that School Resource Officer Lorenzo Beltran has started facilitating a lunch time club on campus.
CVHS has no law enforcement class like that offered by Randy Cerny at Ceres High School but a number of students approached Officer Beltran about starting a club that offers presentations ranging from drugs on campus to signs of gang activity.
“I had a lot of kids inquire about it and they needed an advisor to generate the club,” said Beltran. “They wanted to know more about law enforcement and what cops do. All types of different kids are signing up and over 100 signed up within three weeks.”
CV Principal Carol Lubinsky as well as Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith and Police Captain Rick Collins have supported and motivated Beltran to act as the club advisor and offer lessons outside of classroom curriculum. He said more classes will be offered after school.
“Our kids have told me they will commit their lunch times to learn about criminal justice, the laws, and crimes” said Beltran.
The club meets once a week with Beltran setting the agenda of study. One day he brought the Ceres Police SWAT truck and told what it’s like to be on the SWAT team. Beltran wants to offer a half-day tour of the Public Safety Center just miles down Service Road but he needs to raise $400 to fund two buses for transportation.
“I have so many kids and we’re starting to fundraise.”
Because of his unique interaction with the students, he sees his biggest role is to “have them see me more of a mentor and they want to know more about our lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.”
“I believe that relationship with the kids is important nowadays. My biggest thing is the interaction with these kids. I want them to gain a respectful relationship with law enforcement. All they see is negative on social media. I just want them to have their own opinions and be completely honest with me. I want them to be able to say hi to me and know that we’re not just there to arrest them and enforce the law. I believe we have to get the kids and mentor them.”
Beltran has challenged students to let go of negative stereotypes that many young people have of officers – something he believes is fueled by negative stories of police and comments in social media.
“I tell them that just because there’s bad apples it doesn’t mean they’re all bad. And due to social media kids thrive off that and think all cops are bad.”
Beltran, who has been an officer with Ceres Police Department for 13 years, said interest in law enforcement is shared by students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. That includes those from well-to-do families, different ethnic backgrounds, those who struggle daily in home life and some whose family members “don’t do so well.”
The club has been giving back to the community, taking some recently donated cash to buy a Thanksgiving food basket for a family in need.
The club has designed a T-shirt and begun selling them at the school. Anyone may buy them by emailing Beltran at firstname.lastname@example.org
Persons who wish to donate to the club may contact the Hawks Nest at the school or the school office.