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Almost everyone at Donna High School knows Esteban Rios. The diverse learner who was born with Down Syndrome is described as a feisty, kind-hearted individual who loves to “serve and protect” everyone around him. His reputation of helping out around campus impressed DHS administration that it ultimately earned him a spot with Donna ISD’s Police Department.

“Esteban is very good spirited,” Sgt. Domingo Aguirre said. “He’s always willing to help. He always looks for us. He really enjoys being around us and helping us. He’s been nothing but a big help for us.”

To acknowledge Rios’ good deeds and volunteer work, Donna ISD’s police department named him the first student officer and inducted him into the district’s new Student Safety Officer Program. He was sworn in by district Police Chief Roy Padilla at a special ceremony. With his father by his side, Rios raised his left hand and officially took the oath of office promising to assist police in any way he could.

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Although the ceremony made his induction official, Rios has been on the job working alongside district police for some time. His responsibilities vary but his primary role is to assist police during hectic times in between classes.

“He’s a real big help in clearing the hallways with our kids,” Sgt. Aguirre said. “He’ll walk alongside one of our police officers and encourage the students to get to class on time. For the most part, the students respect him and they do as he says. That’s the main thing that he helps us do.”

Sgt. Aguirre said Rios has a way of lighting things up. “We can have a tough day, but it won’t last long because Esteban will change it really quick. He puts a smile on our faces. He’ll brighten up anybody’s day.”

Chief Padilla said he came up with the idea to start the Student Safety Officer Program district-wide when Rios approached him at a football game and asked him what he could do to help. “He stepped up to the plate and on his own said ‘hey I want to help you out, ‘ ” Padilla said. “Just like that, he said he wanted to be a police officer and wanted to know what he could do to be of assistance. He said he wanted a T-shirt that said police so that’s how this idea started.”

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Officers not only gave Rios a student officer uniform shirt, they provided him with a cap, a pair of boots, cargo work pants, a belt, a flashlight, a whistle and even a badge. “The police are my friends,” Rios said. “I want to help them.”

“I’m humbled,” Padilla said. “This is a big honor for us. Esteban deserves this. He’s doing awesome.”

Padilla said he expected the program to evolve and gain momentum across the district. “We anticipate that the student officers will help campus police with minor non-strenuous issues at their schools, in their classes, at activities, where ever they can be of assistance,” Padilla said. “Who knows, there could be a future police officer in the making.”

Padilla said the goal is to promote safety at our campuses. “The only way that we can win and beat this evil that’s out there is by banding together with our citizens and our students,” Padilla added. “We want to instill in our students, community involvement and working together with police. That’s the only way that we can win.”

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