It became instantly clear that Det. Ubaldo Mendoza of the Beverly Hills Police Department wasn’t expecting an award.
Beverly Hills Council of Parent Teacher Associations Co-President Rose Kaiserman took to the podium to introduce the surprise recipient of the council’s Honorary Service Award at an annual CPTA luncheon at Fogo de Chao last week. As she watched Mendoza look around the room, she had to smile.
She described a dedicated, hard-working and well-deserving award recipient. Someone whose presence on campus is not always a good sign, but always a welcomed one. Someone who genuinely loves children, earns their respect and has made a tremendous impact on the school community.
And, clearly, from the way Det. Mendoza peered about the room with a quizzical look on his face, someone who has never expected to be recognized for his work.
“I was describing Det. Mendoza to him, and he’s looking around,” the PTA Council Co-President said. “I can’t believe that for one second the description didn’t sound familiar.”
Mendoza has served as a Beverly Hills Juvenile Detective for seven years, handling all juvenile-related matters in the city, whether the child is a victim, a suspect or involved in a criminal investigation.
He laughs now, too, that he didn’t realize he was receiving the award, but he can be forgiven for being taken by surprise.
“It was an amazing and wonderful honor,” Mendoza said. “You don’t do this job because you expect people to reward you or pat you on the back, but it is a nice thing when people notice you’re doing hard work.”
Then, in keeping with the team spirit he was being recognized for, Mendoza added, “I have wonderful command staff, school resource officers, so many people. It should be them and not me. But it is wonderful to be recognized.”
The Honorary Service Award is given by the California State PTA to recognize outstanding service to children and youth. The award is often presented to members of the PTA or to school officials, but for years the Beverly Hills PTA has wanted to do something special to recognize Mendoza’s dedication.
“He has long deserved this,” Kaiserman said. “Over the years, parents have all said how great he is. He really takes the time to investigate certain situations that children might be involved in. He builds relationships with the parents and with the children. We have wanted to do something special for him.”
Kaiserman said that parents have been particularly impressed with the talks Mendoza gives to students about pertinent issues, such as bullying, juuling and cyber safety.
“He doesn’t just come across as an authority figure. He prompts questions, he has discussions,” Kaiserman said. “He opens kids’ eyes to consequences of their actions.”
Mendoza said that being a parent to twin teenagers himself informs the work he does within the community.
“I know it’s a cliché, but I treat the children the way I would hope an officer would treat my own children, whether they are the victims or in a challenging situation,” he said. “And I strive to treat the parents of those children the way I would expect to be treated by another officer.”
That ethos of respect has made an impact on the school community.
“We appreciate the work and time he puts into our children,” Kaiserman said. “He really does love our kids, and he is dedicated.”
And, clearly, he doesn’t expect anything in return.