NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk Police are working to take back the community, as they send bilingual officers into the classroom to teach English to students from other countries.
Norfolk Public Schools partnered with the Norfolk Police Department in 2018 to help the students who were struggling.
Officer Juvenal Valdez is fluent in Spanish and English.
And it’s these skills that help him connect with the students in Mrs. Smith’s “English is a Second Language” class.
“At first when they see a police officer, of course they get scared, but when they talk to you they relate, you speak their language, they’re much more at ease,” said Officer Valdez.
But Valdez also connects with them on a personal level.
“I can relate because I was also brought to this country at an early age,” he said.
Valdez remembers what it was like being in a new country and not knowing English.
This helps students share their frustrations with him.
“It was so hard, because I don’t know English,” said student Jose Paredes.
“It’s difficult,” said student Hector Bonilla.
These teens have the same goals that other teens do starting out in a new school.
“I want to make new friends,” said student Keylin Guzman.
But the language barrier makes it that much more difficult.
“Once you get older in high school you have a lot of tension, especially if you were just brought to this country at this age,” Valdez said.
But officers do their best to ease the tensions.
Valdez says he can spot when a student needs help.
“You can see the people that are struggling, putting their hand to their head or looking around, they look lost,” Valdez said.
Officer Valdez says they also do home visits to remind parents to encourage the students to continue to go to school and stay in school.
Tuesday was the last day of the program, but officers say they’re going to take what they learned from this year and come up with ideas to make next year’s ESL program even better.
For more information on any of NPD’s Hispanic outreach, tune in to LaSelecta Radio 103.3 FM every Thursday morning with Officer Valdez, 7:30 a.m. – 8 a.m.