To watch Bexar County police captain Rudy Garza direct traffic at Ogden Lane and Townsend Avenue, adjacent to Cambridge Elementary School, is mesmerizing. It resembles a carefully choreographed dance between human and cars and trucks.
With one eye on vehicles and the other on students heading to or from school, Garza’s focus is riveted on protecting the children from danger.
And he’s been doing it for a long time — more than 22 of his 23 years in law enforcement. It’s truly a labor of love. “I don’t do it for the money,” Garza told 78209 Magazine. “I do it for the kids.” In fact, he said, “I thought about giving it up a year or so ago, but I just couldn’t do it because of the children.”
So, every school day – morning and afternoon, rain or shine, hot or cold — Garza is on the job. He starts his school days around 7:30 am at Cambridge and is back again by 2:30 pm. Then it’s back on the clock, on the streets, and on patrol for Bexar County Constable Mark Vojvodich when he’s not directing traffic and helping students cross the street.
Garza is the third generation in his family in law enforcement. His grandfather, Rudy Garza, was a long-time police officer in Bexar County, ending his career as sheriff from 1978-1980. His dad, also named Rudy Garza, was a career homicide detective in the sheriff’s office and, later, an investigator for the Bexar County DA’s drug court. Captain Garza has worked SWAT, drug enforcement, canine, and more in law enforcement. He’s also a “licensed to carry firearms instructor.”
He says one of the things he loves about being a crossing guard is getting to know the kids. “I get to know all of them, including the ones I have to watch very carefully. There are some who just don’t pay a lot of attention to traffic. Who may dart into the street. And then there are others who are so careful, so aware of their surroundings.”
On occasion, he laughs, “I have to ask a parent or two to put down their phones while walking their youngster to school. They always comply.”
He has also perfected seeing “the panic” in a student’s eyes when a parent is not where they should be.
“We never leave a student standing alone outside the school if their ride is late. I’ll hang with them as long as I can. But when I have to go back on patrol, I take them into the school office.”
Cambridge Principal Jana Needham says, “Rudy is instrumental in a safe arrival and dismissal process. He is an icon in our Cambridge world. I love that he knows our families as well as he does. He is a great asset to our campus!”
And PTO president Ashley Person, whose children Clara and Ann attend the school, notes, “The kids at Cambridge have come to know, depend on, and trust Rudy. He is definitely a bright light in the middle of a busy intersection that he keeps running smoothly. He knows the kids and even to recognizes the younger siblings driving by and waves back!”
Watching him get “high-fives” from students as they cross the street makes it easy to see the warm relationship he has with Cambridge students.
In the time he’s been a crossing—guard, Garza has watched the little ones grow up, graduate from high school and college, get married, and have kids he is now crossing on their way to and from school. As he puts it, “I am now seeing parents who were kids I knew at Cambridge. They always greet me and introduce their children to me. Which is a special thrill.”
Garza would like to see the old student safety patrol program started again. “We used to have it,” he said. “Students learned leadership skills and embraced responsibility. It was a great program, and perhaps it’s something Cambridge can consider again.”
Cambridge assistant to the principal Jenny Gonzalez says, “Rudy represents Cambridge and the school district’s motto as in – ‘Live Honorably, Act Humbly and Model Dignity’ — every day to our students and parents. What a joy it is to have Rudy protecting our campus and neighborhood streets.”
In all his time at Cambridge, Garza says, they have had only one instance when a student was injured by an automobile. That was years ago, he explains, when a student stepped into the street in front of the school building. The injuries were minor. But it was an important lesson for students teachers, and parents to be vigilant at all times.
When asked whether he’s good for another 20-plus plus years as Cambridge’s crossing guard, Rudy says, “I’m blessed. I love this job. I love doing it.”
That sounds like a yes.
By Ron Aaron Eisenberg