With the ., the role of San Juan Capistrano's schools resource officer becomes much more visible.
Dep. Carlos Sanchez is the new man in this role, traveling from campus to campus to make sure the students are safe – in more ways than one.
Sanchez keeps students on track throughout San Juan Capistrano, from elementary bus stops and the Village homework club to his office at San Juan Hills High School.
His morning meet-and-greets at elementary and middle school bus stops help the families get to know who is protecting their children, and who is making the effort to keep their students on a rewarding path.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it,” Sanchez recently told Patch.
“My goal is not to intimidate everyone; there are a lot of kids, and just one of me,” Sanchez said.
While Sanchez is successful with helping students who have strayed from the studious path and have been exposed to marijuana and other drugs, he makes a greater effort still, to give middle school kids active extracurricular options, keeping them from the pull of peer pressure toward drugs or violence.
Sanchez said that whether it is with weed or with bullies, it’s the same problem. If enough people point fingers, the bully will stop.
“Everyone should tell me when someone is doing something wrong,” he said.
According to Sanchez, merely arresting students is not a solution to the real problem. But if they do get busted, he wants them to pay.
“I believe in probation instead of the fee that parents have to pay if the kid is a juvenile. That way, the kid learns a lesson,” Sanchez said.
Originally from Acapulco, Mexico, Sanchez’s parents moved to North Orange County and motivated young Carlos to take education seriously.
“My parents were focused on school, school, school,” Sanchez said. “That’s how I initially started on the right path,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez's parents' message was echoed by a military representative while he was in high school. The focused ambition Sanchez felt while working with the military representative motivated him to join the Marine Corps.
“I liked the Marine Corps because of the structure and discipline. It followed what my parents taught me,” Sanchez said.
In a way, the Marines prepared him for helping students in San Juan Capistrano.
Compared to Marine Corps boot camp, training for the OC Sheriff’s department didn’t seem so bad to Sanchez.
Once he applied for deputy, though, the training required a different focus.
“It was a lot of mental training, as opposed to boot camp's physical training,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez enjoyed the “hands on” experience he learned in the O.C. Sheriff's Department. His previosu posts include working as an officer at John Wayne Airport, a courthouse and at the Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana. He also worked with the Immigration Customs Enforcement before he started patrolling San Juan Capistrano.
After visiting San Juan Capistrano for ride-alongs with former school resources officer Dep. Harold Abe, Sanchez knew he wanted to work with the students here.
“I immediately started trying to learn about the schools. I knew I wanted to something that would help the children,” Sanchez said.
A New Sheriff in Town
When the opportunity came for the school recourses officer position, Sanchez jumped at the opporunity and was chosen.
“I’m trying to create a good influence for them. I talk to them in a way that they can feel there’s a bond there, to make them comfortable enough to come to me with an issue,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez has seen some challenges and says he is expecting more. When students think, “What can I get away with?” Sanchez is prepared to set a boundary right from the start.
Whenever he is speaking to students who have been directed to his office, he sets the tone with “I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not going to hold any secrets, I’m going to be right upfront with you.”
Students are responding well to his mellow tone, he said.
Sanchez focuses a lot of time on the younger students as well, so that when they reach high school, they won't present problems.
“With the kids, it’s more beneficial if you can change their thinking, not just catch them and get them in trouble,” Sanchez said.
As the schools resource officer, Sanchez is also very involved with the Gang Resistance Intervention Partnership. GRIP guides elementary and middle-school students who have possible gang affiliations away from that lifestyle.
GRIP programs are available at San Juan Elementary, Kinoshita Elementary, Del Obispo Elementary and Marco Forster Middle School.
On Nov. 12, Sanchez enjoyed the turnout for GRIP’s most recent project, which rewarded Kinoshita and Marco students who were involved in GRIP’s Thanksgiving turkey dinner giveaway.
Sanchez and other volunteers identified students who were having trouble with tardiness and turning homework in on time. The incentive for the students to improve and focus was a turkey dinner to give to their family for Thanksgiving. A lot of the kids accomplished it, he said.
Sanchez says his real goal is to not only strengthen programs like GRIP, but also expand them.
“With the help of the community, there’s nothing we can't can’t do. We just need to be active,” Sanchez said.