Setting an Example at Norwalk YAL
Deputy Susana Rosales, center manager of the Norwalk YAL, knows firsthand the importance of introducing role models to children. As an example of the powerful, positive impact that police officers can make, she describes the day when two LAPD officers visited her second-grade classroom to make a presentation as part of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.
“I was so mesmerized by the female officer,” recalls Rosales. “Her shiny badge sparkled before my eyes as she stood upright in her dark blue, pressed uniform. That indeed marked history for me. She became my hero, and the seed that was embedded helped gear me toward the position I am in now.”
Susana worked hard in school and went on to college, earning her bachelor’s degree. After working in social services for about a year, she applied with LASD and was quickly hired. With her background in social work, fluency in Spanish and calm demeanor, Rosales was often tapped by detectives to translate in children’s cases, a pattern that repeated itself in other assignments such as custody and the special victims unit. When the opening for Norwalk YAL center manager opened up suddenly in July 2013, new Norwalk Station Captain Curtis Jensen says he had no idea who would be a good fit for the position until several staff members recommended Rosales. They were right, he says. “Susana quickly fell into her role as mentor, guide, big sister, town sheriff, parental figure, teacher — you name it,” says Captain Jensen. “She gets it — just how important the job she does is — and honors the trust placed in her by handling the job with an open heart and open mind. She’s flexible when a situation calls for it, but firm in her resolve. She also is incredibly self-disciplined in her own life, managing her fitness, family and finances; she’s a great image of success for the kids to see.”
With a majority Hispanic population attending the Norwalk YAL, Rosales can relate on a cultural level with the children she works with daily. She grew up in a Spanish-speaking household and learned English through attending school, so she understands many of the academic and personal struggles the children in the area face —and now she’s in a strong position to help.
“My main focus is to serve as a mentor to our children and provide them with a safe opportunity to grow and develop the tools they need to succeed in life,” says Rosales. In addition to focusing on academics and tutoring, she ensures that there are plenty of activities to keep the children socially and mentally engaged, as well as physically energized, during the school year.
Once the little girl who found a hero in a police officer, Rosales has become the one setting the example for dozens of boys and girls.
“She makes a big difference in little ways, day in and day out,” says Jensen. “It’s obvious that she cares about these kids, and that they care for her as well. In many cases, she is the only adult role model or female role model in their lives. And there’s genuine affection in both directions.”