CDCR Officer Pena tells kids to make good choices, stay in school
By Don Chaddock, InsideCDCR editor
Photos courtesy Teresa Hughes Elementary School
A Correctional Officer made a big impression on elementary school students and school officials after a recent talk.
Officer Eddie Pena, with the California Rehabilitation Center, spoke to 900 students from Teresa Hughes Elementary School about the consequences of poor decisions, the importance of staying away from drugs and the dangers of bullying. The school, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is in Cadahy.
The school has often featured law enforcement officers as speakers.
“This was the first time I have had somebody from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,” said Principal Adriana Cortez. “My students need to interact with law enforcement in positive ways, not just when things are going wrong for them and their family.”
According to the principal, “over 85 percent of my students are considered economically disadvantaged.”
She said his message resonated with the students and staff alike.
“Officer Pena talked about the importance of staying drug free. He emphasized the consequences of making bad decisions such as using drugs. He brought it down to their level by telling them how it would affect their ability to see their family every day,” she said. “He told the students they had they ability to make better choices than those of the inmates he has to supervise.”
He also spoke about staying in school, being good students and listening to their teachers.
“He also talked to the students about bullying. He explained what bullying is, why it’s wrong, and what they should do if they are being bullied or if they witness bullying,” she said. “I have students report bullying every week simply because, ‘Officer Pena said I should.’”
The principal said several teachers were impressed.
“They all said Officer Pena was able to grab and keep the attention of the kids for the whole time. Many also commented on his patience with the students,” she said.
According to Principal Cortez, the Officer exceeded expectations.
“I would like to have it noted that Officer Pena went above and beyond what I had expected. I have over 900 students at my school. He willingly met with each individual grade level in order to provide an appropriate presentation by grade,” she said. “He didn’t ask me to group students into two-to-three groups so he would be finished quickly. He presented seven times to seven different grade levels. He was a great representative of CDCR.”
She said she hopes this is the beginning of something bigger with the department.
“I would welcome a relationship with my school and CDCR,” she said. “CDCR Officers and staff would be welcome anytime. The CDCR has much to be proud of with officers such as Officer Pena who are making a difference in communities such as mine.”
She said the real impact of Officer Pena’s visit is on the students.
“Sometimes my students just need a positive role model in their life.”
Some questions asked by the students:
- Have you ever been in the TV show “Lockup”?
- Have you ever shot your gun?
- Have you been hit before?
- How do drugs get inside?
Learn more about CDCR employees making a difference:
- Employees are getting ready for the Jan. 24, 2015, Pig Bowl Guns and Hoses charity tournament, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2014/12/cdcr-employees-don-helmets-for-charity-football-game/
- Teacher and assistant volunteer to help families, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2014/12/o-h-close-ycf-teacher-assistant-volunteer-to-make-a-difference/
- K-9 team visits veterans home, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2014/12/pleasant-valley-state-prison-k-9-visits-fresno-veterans-home/