Antoine Díaz, 17, has a good reason to be standing tall on graduation day. He’s finishing Santa Ana Valley High School a year and a half early with a 4.0 GPA.
“I’m very excited. It’s what I worked for,” Díaz said. “I’m overwhelmed because I’m closing a huge chapter in my life.”
But how he got here wasn’t easy.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Florentino Olivera got a call earlier this year from a school police officer who told him that Díaz wanted to join the CHP Explorer program in hopes of one day having a career in law enforcement.
“I gave him a call. I told him to come to one of our meetings. I told him to wear a polo shirt jeans and dark shoes. Look professional,” Olivera said.
Díaz showed up for that meeting, only he was three hours early and wasn’t wearing the proper attire, just a pair of sweatpants and a sweater that didn’t fit him. This went on for weeks, Olivera said.
“Me and my family, we suffer with financial problems, so I had never had the opportunity to go out and shop for clothes. So I practically wear the same thing every day, just washed,” Díaz said.
Olivera eventually gained Díaz’s trust and later learned that his parents were separated. Neither owned a car, and Díaz was traveling by bus more than three hours every week to his Explorer meeting. That’s when this CHP sergeant knew he had to help.
“When we saw where he lived and the conditions, it was rough,” Olivera said.
In the following months, Olivera and his fellow officers purchased more clothes and food for Díaz and his family.
Receiving assistance like this makes Díaz want to pay the benefits forward.
“Absolutely it makes me want to help less-fortunate people in my community,” Díaz said.
Díaz was accepted into Cal State Fullerton, where he starts classes in the fall.
“Very bright! He’s determined. Failure to him is not an option,” Olivera said.