LOS BANOS -- Los Banos Junior High staff and students celebrated a member of the campus security team last week with disco music and lots of fanfare.
Gloria Rodriguez, 54, has been an employee of the junior high for 12 years, and of Los Banos Unified School District for 25 years. She said she was surprised to step into the quad and see students holding signs that read "Gloria!" while "Gloria" by Laura Branigan played over the sound system.
Rodriguez was visibly emotional, and said she felt like a Miss Universe pageant winner.
"I love my job," Rodriguez said while wiping tears from her eyes. "I come to work, because I love it."
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The school's administration deemed April 18 "Gloria Rodriguez Day." She was given flowers and balloons, and scores of students lined up to give her a hug and congratulate her.
"If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be here," Rodriguez said to students through the sound system. "I love you all."
Seventh-grader Esmeralda Jimenez, 12, said she was happy for her grandmother.
"She's been supporting me since I was a baby," Esmeralda said.
Jim Arkfeld, a computer skills teacher, said Rodriguez cares for her four grandchildren, has cared for three extended-family members with cancer and is consistently supplying shoes and clothes for children in need.
Arkfeld called her a local hero.
"She's just respected by everybody, because she's such a caring person," Arkfeld said.
Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.