Ernesto Nunez, better known to the students and faculty at CHAMPS Charter High School as Ernie, is typically the first face students see when arriving at school each morning. He stands on Van Nuys Boulevard ushering student pedestrians and carpool drop-offs away from the bustling street.
With signature black sunglasses upon his bald head, he smiles and greets each and every student beginning nearly an hour before the warning bell rings.
“Hi, boy, have a good lunch … healthy, healthy,” Nunez says to a student as the upperclassman leaves campus for lunch.
“George! No ditching class,” he teases to another.
Nunez sometimes arrives at CHAMPS at 7 a.m., and stays until long after dark to make sure that students leave after-school rehearsals safely. However, he vows never to let his dedication to his work compromise time he spends with his family. He is the father of four children, all high school graduates between the ages of 21 and 42.
“Ernie’s super cool, he always smiles at me, he always waves when we drive up in the morning. He’s a cool dude,” said Nicole Sanchez, a senior.
While she has witnessed myriad security guards come and go, Nunez has been a constant aspect of her campus life for four years. She recognizes him for his infectious smile.
The cheerful security guard was raised by a single mother on the poorest, gang-infested streets of Los Angeles after immigrating from Mexico with his immediate family following the murder of his father. By the age of 16, he was providing for his four younger siblings, all of whom he is in close contact with today.
Vice Principal Amelia Marshall is one of Nunez’s supervisors and says that she has the utmost respect for the guard. Because of the untraditional art school’s unusual campus — two adjacent buildings at the intersection of Van Nuys and Hartland — Nunez’s position and diligence are crucial to student safety, she said. However, it is his fatherly charm that makes him a “family favorite.”
“He always has a kind word to say. He’s just there wanting the best from our students,” said Marshall.