Police, schools team up to create fun-filled Thanksgiving in City Heights

Posted: Friday, November 16th 2018

The sun has just gone down, and classes ended hours ago, yet there is a commotion on the Wilson Middle School campus. Orange Avenue is lined with police vehicles – over twenty of them in all – but there are no sirens, no lights. A young voice breaks through the din.

“Is the food in there? I’m ready to eat!”

Welcome to the True Blue Buddies Thanksgiving Dinner. Now in its fourth year, the family-oriented event hosted by the San Diego Unified Police Department is bringing an early Thanksgiving feast to City Heights.

“It's important for us to let the kids know, and the families, that they can have a positive interaction with a police officer. Tonight we’re hosting the kids and working hard to make it a great night for them," says Officer William Corado.

The dinner is just one part of True Blue Buddies, a year-long mentorship program between kids and San Diego Unified Police officers like Corado. This year, the department paired 30 children from Central Elementary with its officers along with San Diego County Probation and SDPD officers.

“We’re here to promote positive interactions between kids and police officers,” says Sergeant Ivan Picazo. “Our officers check in with their buddy, have lunch with them, and give them encouragement in school.”

Picazo says the interactions are not only a great support for the kids, but beneficial to the officers in understanding the challenges many students are facing each day.

“Sometimes [kids] have a lot going on. There’s military hardships, there’s divorce hardships, there’s homelessness, and extreme poverty. We just want to let them know we’re there to support them too.”

Part of that support comes in the form of events like tonight’s Thanksgiving dinner. All 30 of the Central students are here, along with their families, for a fun-filled evening. Wilson Middle, where many of these children will attend in a few years, is providing the auditorium space as well as a performance by its student drumline. Nearby Rosa Parks Elementary has sent its Ballet Folklorico students to provide vibrant entertainment in the form of traditional Mexican dance.


The dinner is a traditional feast of Thanksgiving fare, complete with turkey and cranberry, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, and – you guessed it – pumpkin pie. All of this savory goodness is provided free of charge by SDUSD Food Services staff, who also pack up the leftovers for families to keep and take home at the end of the night.

As the food is served, the Hoover High jazz band takes the stage and begins to play. The youngsters watching this high school band may be looking into their own future; as part of the Hoover cluster, Central Elementary sets its young students on an academic path that will eventually take them to Hoover, and beyond.

One person who knows this pathway well is Officer Corado, who is overseeing this year’s True Blue Buddies program.

A sworn SDUSD Police officer since 2001, Corado is a true product of the City Heights community he now serves: After starting school at Euclid Elementary, he stood on this same Wilson campus as a student, before moving on to Hoover High.

“Working in the community, with the children and the families, it gives me great satisfaction to be able to give back to this community. I can say to the kids that despite what the odds may be against you, you can do great things, you can become a role model yourself,’” Corado says.

What was his favorite part of tonight’s dinner event?

“There were a lot of smiles, and laughter,” he says. “And we have something real special planned for December.”

For more information on the San Diego Unified Police Department and their mission, visit https://www.sandiegounified.org/police-services

This story contributed by SDUSD Communications team member Dan Howe, who is a former police officer.
Video courtesy of CBS News 8 / KFMB TV

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