A lot of people come to Whittier College because of the small class sizes and the opportunity to actually get to know professors; Sociology major Sal Hinojosa is no exception. He grew up as an only child and wanted to stay close to home, so Whittier College’s location and small student body highly appealed to him.
For Hinojosa, the transition from high school to college was difficult. He procrastinated a lot, though he changed that habit quickly when he pressured himself to finish his requirements at WC early. He thought the techniques he used in high school would work in college, but that was not the case. Professors are not the same as high school teachers; they do not watch over us as heavily. Professors, of course, are helpful, and are always there for students, but students have to seek out help with classes instead of having it handed to them, which is what Hinojosa struggled with at first, but quickly got the hang of.
The Center for Advising and Academic Success helped Hinojosa adapt into the college atmosphere. He was part of the Student Athlete Peer Mentor Program, which pairs first-year student athletes with older student athletes for a weekly-check in. He came to WC with years of experience in playing golf, and he joined WC’s team. As someone with a disability, WC’s Student Disability Services also helped Hinojosa along the way.
The opportunity to get to know professors has given Hinojosa a list of those who similarly enhanced his college experience: Associate Professor of Sociology Julie Collins-Dogrul, Associate Professor of Sociology Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez, Adjunct Faculty Jonathan Sigmon, and Assistant Professor of Education & Child Development Cean R. Colcord. Each of these professionals had a hand in helping Hinojosa navigate through college comfortably.
Hinojosa has himself to thank for a fulfilling experience, as well, given all the hard work he has completed within his four years. His senior project, for example, is a very dense collection of research based on a topic that we have been observing for years now: police brutality. Specifically, Hinojosa is looking at the relationship between law enforcement officers and community members, and studying how this relationship has gotten worse over the years. Various acts of police brutality, for example, have seriously affected how community members interact with and place their trust in the police force. “I felt it was a good topic with everything going on,” said Hinojosa.
For this project, Hinojosa is curious about the perspective of police officers. Much of the media coverage surrounding police brutality has been from the eyes of the public, so Hinojosa wanted to speak to officers. He has interviewed veteran officers that have been in the force from five to 20 years about the things they have seen and experienced throughout their career. He is excited to see his project come together by May.
His senior project is more than a requirement for school; it explores Hinojosa’s view of police brutality. He believes that the media plays a big part in the public’s view of everything going on because of how they capture and portray it, but the media often does not get both sides of the story. Hinojosa encourages everyone not to stop at just one video when and forming an opinion out of it. He believes that looking at the situation from both sides will help improve the relationship between law enforcement and the public.
Hinojosa himself wants to be a police officer, but he wants the system to change. He does not want to abuse the power that police officers have; he would much rather be comfortable with the public, and make them feel comfortable enough to come to him. He is particularly worried about youth that lack support at home.
Hinojosa’s interests from a young age consisted of a passion for golf — which he has played for years, and contributes to his current job as a caddy at a golf course — and a curiosity about gang history. Though he would not mind continuing his job at the golf course for a couple years before working to become an officer, he is still highly interested in the police force. Hinojosa has watched documentaries about gangs for years, and he knows how manipulative they can be when offering lonely kids support. “I want to help the local youth,” Hinojosa said. He wants to do this by working for a small department in California, which will allow him to be closer to the community, rather than somewhere like the Los Angeles Police Department.
The process of becoming a police officer is a long one, in Hinojosa’s opinion. It takes anywhere from six months to one year for background checks and tests to ensure mental stability and physical capability. From there, potential officers must attend a six-month police academy. They then train for a year with a veteran officer. It will take at least two years to become an officer that can patrol alone, but dedication is certainly not something Hinojosa has a problem with.
For current students at WC, Hinojosa highly recommends taking it slow. As he took it upon himself to finish up quickly, he was not left with many memories of his college experience. “Don’t live it too fast. Enjoy it,” he said. He also encourages students to take advantage of all the resources available at WC: scholarships, tutoring, disability services, clubs, Societes, and more. Whittier College is a small and intimate campus — do everything you can to make it yours.
Feature image: Courtesy of Sal Hinojosa