Keeping Payton safe- Officers Mendoza and Watkins tell all

By Helena Li, Contributor

Officer Watkins

Officer Watkins sporting some season-appropriate Payton gear.

Where are you from? Are you a Chicago native?

I am a Chicago native from the South Side.

What drew you to security?

I wanted to be in a position or a career where I could help people feel secure in their environment. 

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is being able to communicate to students or staff on how important it is to be safe, and to look out for themselves in special situations when they don’t really realize if it’s a[n un]safe situation.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

When all of that comes together and [you] see a positive outcome of the teens being able to say, “Hey, watch out! Be careful!” And when you come back and say, “Hey, I’m glad you told me that, because something happened and I was able to get out of that situation from your suggestion and positive advice.” I would say [it’s] the reinforcement of being safe.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to Payton students?

Be aware of your environment. Try not to be on your cell phones, especially outside of the school grounds. Always, always just be aware of your surroundings and people around you. 

Are there any funny anecdotes you’d like to share?

I have a student that always, always comes and says, “Officer Watkins, I wouldn’t come to school today if you weren’t here.” This student always told me, “I’m so glad that you’re here.” It’s not really a funny thing, but they say it to me all the time. No matter who’s at the desk, they’ll always walk up to me [and say] “Officer Watkins! I missed you because you weren’t here the other day!” It makes me smile. 

If you were a Payton student, would you prefer to scan with your ID card or phone in the morning?

If I was a student, I would use the ID card. It’s faster, it’s more consistent, and it’s easier for the scanners to read, versus your phone–you have more steps when you walk through the door, versus I got my ID here, let me just just scan it. I don’t know why they switched it to this, but it is what it is, right?

Officer Mendoza

Officer Mendoza greeting students as they come to school in the morning.

Where are you from? Are you a Chicago native?

I am not. I was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois. 

What drew you to security?

Actually, it was the time off that I could get to spend with my family, because I was trying to start a new family at the time. I knew I could get summers and winters off so I could be with my family.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Getting students to their classes–and staying in their classes!

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping people out and seeing the outcome when it’s positive. Just helping people in general.

What do you do in your downtime?

I walk the perimeter sometimes, most of the time check all the doors, make sure they’re closed and not a problem. I do errands for the office, paperwork and stuff like that, for any incidents that might have occurred, and that’s about it.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to Payton students?

Stay in school!

If you were a Payton student, would you prefer to scan with your ID card or phone in the morning?

I would scan it with my ID card. 

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