Past reflects a new present

Security Fortunato Rodriguez, known as “Tito,” worked in jails as security, but has found a new aspect of himself at Walnut.


Cathy Li, Opinion editor and Copy EIC

Flashing lights that need an epilepsy warning; jump scares around every corner. The Universal Studios Horror Night is not for the faint of heart, but Tito Rogriguez doesn’t scare easily. “There was even a lady who had half of her body chewed off by a big ol’ monster,” he recalled with a smile on his face. “She was laughing [because] I said something funny to her and made her break character.”

Cracking jokes in the face of a zombie in a gruesome stage of decomposition is probably the closest one can get to describing Rodriguez. That, and his signature baseball caps he wears as he patrols the campus in his security cart, stopping once in a while to catch up with a student. 

“I talk to [students] so they can get comfortable with talking to me, so I’m not just a security on campus, I’m Tito on campus,” Rodriguez said. “I’m there for you guys when you need something. Maybe today you’re having a stressful day in class, so you walk out for a minute and then I’ll come scoop you up, have a conversation, take your mind off things, make you feel better, you know?”

I’m there for you guys when you need something.

— Tito Rodriguez

This year will mark the eighth Rodriguez has been a security guard at Walnut. 

“That’s the best thing I like about my job: I don’t stress at all. There’s nothing a kid can do to stress me out. Like if you tease me, I tease you back. You don’t listen to me, you’re gonna get in trouble, not me. All I have to do is drop you off with your GLC if I don’t want to deal with you,” Rodriguez laughed. 

Rodriguez has this mindset because his security guards were friendly to him when he was in high school, acting as positive role models. Now, interacting with students is his favorite part of his job.

“I’m always teasing everybody. It’s funny to me. Sometimes I’ll tease students because their hair is weird, and then they laugh, but I’m really trying to tell them that their hair is weird,” Rodriguez said. “I know they seem to like that. It just makes me laugh because I’m actually being serious.” 

Before Walnut, Rodriguez worked at the Whittier Police Department as a jail manager, a drastically different environment that required a different attitude.

“I wasn’t very nice to kids I arrested because I didn’t want them to ever get in trouble again. But that experience was good. You learned how to deal with people that are not too friendly,” Rodriguez said. “Being mean has always been easy to me. It’s being nice that’s work for me. Everybody sees me as a nice person but sometimes I just want to say some stuff to somebody. But I love being able to be nice all the time. I get everything done with a nice attitude better than I do with a mean attitude.”

Rodriguez took the Whittier position right out of high school because he wanted to become a police officer, and working at the jail allowed him to shadow officers on the job. 

“I would go with some cops that weren’t as friendly with everybody. I would treat people differently and then they would see how I would get a different reaction from people,” Rodriguez said. “Cops are already thinking like, ‘what problem does this person have?’ You know, because most of the time when people call the cops it’s for something negative. It’s good not to go into it thinking that way.”

Some kids don’t have people to talk to, so it’s nice to know that people could confide in me.

— Tito Rodriguez

However, knee and back injuries from a car accident left him unable to pursue this career path.

“Sometimes it does make me a little sad because I know I would have been good at it,” Rodriguez said. “But then other times I think about what I’ve done since then and how many kids’ lives I’ve changed by being nice.”

This injury is why Rodriguez took a part-time job at Walnut, which eventually led to his current full-time position. 

“It makes me feel good that kids talk to me. Some kids don’t have people to talk to, so it’s nice to know that people could confide in me. It makes me happy. That’s why I’m here. I’m here for that more than anything else,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve stayed friends with a lot of kids from the past, and I know that I’ve made a difference. Sometimes people do need someone to understand them or hear them out.”