One of the most familiar faces around campus is Albino Rios, a safety officer on Hope College’s campus. Showing his love for the college community, Rios is often seen with a smile on his face, mingling with students on the campus grounds. Sporting a manicured gray mustache and wellgroomed hair, Rios comes to work in full stereotypical police uniform. Rios can be seen listening intently to the messages coming across his Motorola radio, which is attached to his chest. Commonly referred to as “Al,” Officer Rios attributes his professional appearance to his 32 years of service with the Holland Police Department. “Police work is not what you think at all,” Rios says. “It’s really tough. Half the people you run into on the streets are corrupt. It really takes a toll on you.” During his lengthy career before joining Campus Safety, Al developed many skills to detail on his resume. He started his career as a patrol officer, worked his way to the state police department and spent time with drug enforcement and community policing, where he ended as a detective sergeant.
Despite this diverse work history, Rios doesn’t carry the stereotype of an authoritative policeman. Instead, Rios can be seen roaming the campus, conversing with students and exchanging stories. In an interview with Larry Wagenaar in the “150 Stories for 150 Years, Sesquicentennial of Holland,” Rios talked about his time as a policeman and his “proactive approach” to the community of Holland. “I worked with pretty much anybody and everybody. I got involved with a lot of our social service agencies, mental health agencies and school systems. I was very involved with them.” While at the Holland Police Department, Rios states that one of his key roles was to lead people. Essential for this role, Rios had to “expand his own knowledge to identify the resources available for people.” If he was unable to locate a resource, he at least needed to “know where to lead them.” Rios has displayed his leadership traits in more way than one while at Hope. Before he was a Campus Safety officer, Al worked with creative dining at Hope. He went above and beyond to interact with students. Demonstrating his servant leadership, Rios went out of his way to get to know the students and make them feel special. Rios carries that “proactive approach” from his time as a policeman on to Hope’s campus as a Campus Safety officer.
In our interview, Rios stated that his overarching goals go beyond just keeping students safe. “If I could get one person to take some of my wisdom, that’s all I would want. To know that I would have an influence on someone and help them is all I want. I’m not trying to be a hero; I’m just trying to do my job and help young people.” Officer Rios described how he has developed many relationships with students and learned many things. “Some of my best relationships are with students. I have also developed strong relationships with my co-workers, but I care very deeply about the students.” Along with keeping students safe, Rios loves spending time with his family. He has been married for 34 years and prides himself on his family. Rios was the first in his family to go to college. He proudly announces that all three of his kids have gone to college. In addition, he loves sports, keeping physically fit, reading, traveling, spending time with his wife and volunteering in his spare time. On most Saturdays, Officer Rios volunteers with HOPE Serves, a local community service agency where he leads students in volunteering at various community sites. As a young boy growing up, Rios endured his fair share of trouble and hardship. Originally from Juarez, Mexico, his parents came from a poor background with only a fifth-grade education. Growing up in Zeeland, Al found he was in the minority, living among the heavily populated Caucasian region of West Michigan. Despite these obstacles, he hasn’t let his differences slow him down. Rather, he embraces his heritage and uses his background to connect with students. “I can connect with anybody, but I love reaching out to the minority students on campus. I feel like they can sense that I understand what they’ve been through, so they can connect with me more”.
“Al has always been an outgoing individual who loves to connect with people,” says Campus Safety officer Joel Serna. “I worked with Al for 27 years at the Holland Police Department, and his heart for kids has only grown since then.” In addition to engaging with students and faculty on campus, Rios keeps busy. As an officer, Rios is tasked daily with his Campus Safety duties to monitor building security, ensure doors are locked and create and maintain a safe environment for students. According to Baltimore Magazine, a Campus Safety Officer is a thankless job. Rios fights against this common misconception of policemen. “Many students on campus look down upon officers, and I’m trying to change that. There is nothing that I can’t handle because of my experience. I want kids to know they’re not just dealing with a ‘mall cop’ but rather a real guy with 32 years of experience.” Rios brings a police mantra to his Hope team that is irreplaceable. Fellow Campus Safety officer Henry Chen speaks highly of Officer Rios and his skills and work ethic. Rios exhibits a special skill set in that “you can’t teach his experience.” In addition, Rios has brought leadership qualities to the team at the Campus Safety office.
Chen described Rios as someone who is genuine and truly cares about people. “You can see that in his characteristics and the way he carries himself. He’s only been here for a year, but he has seamlessly fit right in and made life easier for all of us”. In a world where everyone seems busy, it is nice to have people like Officer Rios. People who take time to stop and “make a difference” are so important. Often undervalued and underappreciated, we owe him many thanks.
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