GLENDALE — If anyone’s a fit for inspiring teens, a former street-sweeper-turned-mayor isn’t a bad choice.
Rick Reyes, former Glendale mayor, city councilman, police officer and even street sweeper, has volunteered to fill a guidance position vacated because of budget cuts.
He now roams the halls of Roosevelt Middle School, smiling, joking and telling stories to students in his role as school resource officer.
“They know so many people that are negative,” Reyes said as students chattered around him in a hallway. “The important thing here is being a role model.”
Resource officers, of which the Police Department had one at each of Glendale’s public middle schools until funding for the positions was cut this year, interacted with students on a daily basis, offering an example of civility and creating an added atmosphere of security.
Although Reyes only recently started volunteering at Roosevelt, he had been filling the same role at Cerritos Elementary School for the last five years and frequently bumped into familiar faces in the hallways Thursday.
“He motivated us to do good in elementary school,” said Jan Antipuesto, 14, who added that as a former mayor, Reyes “motivates you to do good so that you can be successful.”
School officials said the resource officers offered valuable guidance to middle school students at an impressionable time in their lives.
“What more important age of catching these kids?” said school board member Greg Krikorian, explaining that resource officers offer students important life lessons.
“It helps keep kids off streets; it helps keep kids off gangs; it helps our students stay away from trouble,” Krikorian said.
Kris Kohlmeier, who teaches at Wilson Middle School, said there has been a void since the loss of its resource officer position.
“Some of these kids have tough backgrounds,” Kohlmeier said.
“There’s lots going on in their lives, and the police officer is a resource for them.”
Reyes has a lot to offer in that role, administrators said.
“He’s a rare breed in our community,” Krikorian said. “To have his commitment to our community is truly admirable.”
Reyes, who recently found out the cancer he had battled has returned, was forced to leave his jobs as a taste tester for Nestle and as a volunteer docent at the Los Angeles Zoo because of his treatment schedule. But he will now have the flexibility to split time between Cerritos and Roosevelt, he said.
Cerritos Principal Janice Hanada said that besides going to classrooms to speak to children about “respect, responsibility and right choices,” Reyes is also known for his dancing.
“One of the things he’s famous for is doing the Macarena,” Hanada said, referring to a dance set to the 1990s Spanish hit “Macarena,” which Reyes leads each May at the school’s International Festival.