gmhTODAY 11 gmhToday Nov Dec 2016 - Page 69

Gilroy Crossing Guard Giving More Than Safe Passage Written By Amy McElroy If you see Alex Hernandez on the corner of Third Street and Santa Teresa Road, you’d see a long-time Gilroy resident helping school children and their families safely through the crosswalks on their way to and from El Robles Elementary School. You may see a former student lean out the window of his car and yell, “Hey Mr. Alex!” Or you might hear Hernandez asking a passing youth how junior high or high school is going. What isn’t seen so much as it’s felt is Hernandez’ deep commitment to his community, his long history of service, and the family loyalty that led him to that corner. Hernandez grew up in Morgan Hill and attended the former Encinal Elementary— now Charter School of Morgan Hill—from first through eighth grade. He graduated in 1968 from Live Oak High School, where he met his high school sweetheart, Rose, who is now his wife. After graduating from Gavilan College with a degree in Administrative Justice, Hernandez began working as a volunteer for the Morgan Hill Police Auxiliary between 1970-1984 and enjoyed working as an employee at special events like football games at his former school. He then joined United Technologies in San Jose as a senior buyer and planner. Unfortunately he was laid off in 1998, just one year prior to his scheduled retirement. During his time at United Technologies, Hernandez and his wife had two sons and a daughter. They now have nine grandchildren. Hernandez started working for the Gilroy Unified School District 12 years ago, when his oldest grandson started asking him to have lunch with him at his school, El Robles Elementary. School lunches with his grandson became such a frequent routine that his wife asked him, “Why don’t you ask if they have anything you can do over there?” When Hernandez told his wife the school needed someone to do yard duty, she said, “What is yard duty?” Hernandez accepted the job and, in addition to helping during the lunch shifts, would help the children safely cross the street to the school in the morning and afternoon. He noted, “I enjoy meeting all the parents and kids— all kinds of people—and talking to them while we wait for traffic to clear.” He smiled as he described coaching flag football during lunch. “I make faces at the kids and tell stories. I twist the rope while they jump.” But his favorite part of the job is knowing that his grandson knows he’s there even though he doesn’t see him too often throughout the day. Hernandez’ sense of giving extends beyond his family to his community. Since moving to Gilroy, he and his wife graduated Gilroy Leadership’s second class, and they’ve joined the Hispanic Chamber. He’s volunteered as a tutor for children and at events to benefit scholarships. Hernandez has served as the President and Vice-President of the League of United Latin American Citizens and, after five years with the Gilroy Elks Lodge, he’s currently the Esteemed Loyal Knight—in line to be the Esteemed Leading Knight next year. Over the years, he’s received many displays of gratitude from parents. “They appreciate what you are doing for their kids and give me all kind of cards and stuff. It’s really rewarding.” Even when the job gets tough, the parents support him. “Sometimes the weather is really hot, and I’m really hot. But a parent may bring me a popsicle from the ice cream truck across the street or a bottle of water.” The drivers, for the most part, smile and stop when he blows the whistle. For the first time, this year, Officer Felix Figueroa from the Gilroy Police Department performed special training for the crossing guards. Hernandez explained, “The officer gave us handouts spelling out how to stand in the middle of the street, train kids to look both ways, training parents to follow the rules.” Since the training, things go more smoothly. “I’ve got them all crossing in the crosswalk now,” Hernandez said, smiling. In this recent training with the police department, Hernandez also learned that crossing guards are not supposed to direct traffic. Yet many drivers still expect him to help alleviate transportation congestion around the school. If Hernandez could share any advice with the public about crossing guards, it would be this: “Bear with us when we’re out there in the intersection. Crossing the kids is our first priority, and second is crossing parents. Directing traffic is not our responsibility. We can’t take on that responsibility or liability for an accident.” At the same time, it’s hard for Hernandez to say no to anyone’s request for help. For instance, when his oldest grandson graduated from El Robles, his other grandchildren asked, “Hey grandpa, why don’t you come do yard duty at our school?” His wife asked, “Why don’t you see if there’s an opening?” Several years later, those children have now graduated, and there’s another grandchild at El Robles. Hernandez asked the principal, “Can I come back?” Of course, the principal said, “Sure.” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 gmhtoday.com 69 Gilroy Crossing Guard Giving More Than Safe Passage Written By Amy McElroy I f you see Alex Hernandez on the corner of Third Street and Santa Teresa Road, you’d see a long-time Gilroy resident helping school children and their families safely through the crosswalks on their way to and from El Robles Elementary School. You may see a former student lean out the window of his car and yell, “Hey Mr. Alex!” Or you might hear Hernandez asking a passing youth how junior high or high school is going. What isn’t seen so much as it’s felt is Hernandez’ deep commitment to his community, his long history of service, and the family loyalty that led him to that corner. Hernandez grew up in Morgan Hill and attended the former Encinal Elementary— now Charter School of Morgan Hill—from first through eighth grade. He graduated in 1968 from Live Oak High School, where he met his high school sweetheart, Rose, who is now his wife. After graduating from Gavilan College with a degree in Administrative Justice, Hernandez began working as a volunteer for the Morgan Hill Police Auxiliary between 1970-1984 and enjoyed working as an employee at special events like foot- ball games at his former school. He then joined United Technologies in San Jose as a senior buyer and planner. Unfortunately he was laid off in 1998, just one year prior to his scheduled retirement. During his time at United Technologies, Hernandez and his wife had two sons and a daughter. They now have nine grand- children. Hernandez started working for the Gilroy Unified School District 12 years ago, when his oldest grandson started asking him to have lunch with him at his school, El Robles Elementary. 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