GENEVA — When Geneva 2030 — formerly 2020 — sought nominations for its first Youth Advocate of the Year Award, it was looking for someone making a positive impact on Geneva’s children.
It found one in School Resource Officer Raul Arroyo, who was nominated for the award by his department.
Arroyo was given the inaugural honor during Geneva 2030’s annual breakfast Oct. 23 at Club 86 in Geneva.
His boss, Police Chief Mike Passalacqua, said Arroyo — a school resource officer for seven years — is deserving of the honor.
He said Arroyo “is an asset that the city of Geneva and the Geneva Police Department are extremely lucky to have. His compassion and understanding for the children he serves goes far above and beyond the hallways of the schools.”
Passalacqua said Arroyo’s “dedication to his position and the Geneva City School District is very easy to see when he is interacting with the students and dealing with incidents in the school setting.”
Arroyo said by email that he “had zero idea” that he was to be honored at the breakfast and that he was so choked up he neglected to go to the podium to speak.
“The fact that my own department nominated me for this award really makes it personally special, especially when I look and think about all the good work that is being done by so many people in our department,” he said. “I am really thankful to be a part of such a wonderful community the city of Geneva is. I love this community, and what I love the most is we are one big family. I am especially grateful for the community accepting me as family.”
Student Suhaily Garcia said Arroyo has the respect and admiration of Geneva students and pointed out that this year’s Homecoming was dedicated to him.
She told the 2030 breakfast audience that Arroyo is an “amazing officer who is constantly making sure that the students of Geneva know that they have someone to talk to. He makes people feel like they can do good every day.”
She said Arroyo calls each student by name and greets kids with hugs and smiles.
School Superintendent Trina Newton said by email that the Geneva police officer knows how to connect with children and that he is the “perfect person” to receive the youth advocate award.
“He is a kind, caring man who puts the welfare of our children first,” she said. “Stand back and watch Raul at a sporting event or walking around our campus. You will see our children flock to him for a hug or encouraging words. We will never know the true influence officer Arroyo has had on the lives of our young scholars.”
Newton noted that Arroyo keeps food in his office for “those who need additional fuel during the day,” while offering “quiet words of support if a student is having a stressful day.”
The superintendent said Arroyo uses his bilingual skills to help the growing number of Spanish-speaking families who don’t speak English “feel welcome and part of the school community.”
Newton said she’s worked with a number of SROs over the years, but that Arroyo stands out among the best.
Kelly Mittiga, a member of the Geneva 2030 Board, said at the breakfast that Arroyo connects not only with students, but also with parents.
“I can always count on officer Arroyo to throw me a wave and smile each morning on Carter Road as he carefully directs traffic to ensure the safety of students walking to school,” she said.