Biking his way to his Police Activities League boxing class one recent afternoon, Mark Twain Junior High eighth-grader Adrian Castro saw something chilling: a toddler, all by herself, getting ready to step out onto H Street in front of Modesto High.
The 13-year-old quickly stopped, went to her and guided her back onto the sidewalk as traffic approached on the busy thoroughfare. His mind raced to his own 1-year-old brother. “I was so scared” for her, Adrian said Monday, recalling the incident four days earlier. “Like if that was my brother, I’d want someone to help him out if he ran from the house or something like that. Just to make sure he doesn’t get hurt, and call the police.”
Adrian did just that: called 911. He was asked to give his name, age and location, and was told to stay put until help arrived.
He asked the little girl her name and age, and she answered that she was Aricelia and was 2. He asked where she lived and she pointed. But just to see if she really knew, he pointed several other directions and asked her, “That way?” She replied yes each time.
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The little girl’s mom and aunt, meanwhile, had been frantically searching for her, according to police. The toddler had learned to open the front door and had left her home unseen. The mom already had called 911, so when dispatchers learned the child’s location, they sent her that way.
The mom and aunt, both crying and relieved, arrived before police did. Adrian had the presence of mind to ask Aricelia if one of the women was her mom. She said yes and went to hug her.
The toddler’s mom thanked Adrian, and so did police, telling him he possibly saved the child from being struck or taken by someone. Neither Adrian nor a police spokeswoman knew how far from her home the girl walked, or how long she was gone.
Friday, police surprised Adrian at school. Officer Jason Stewart was so impressed with the teen’s actions that he brought him a gift card and a Police Department citizen challenge coin. Of the visit, Adrian said, “I was nervous but happy that I did something good.” A photo of him with Stewart was posted on the MPD’s Facebook page.
“Staff at Adrian’s school were impressed as well and excited about his responsible behavior, so they added movie tickets and a slushy certificate,” the MPD Facebook post reads, in part. “We are proud of this guy and think he is a true hero!”
At Mark Twain on Monday afternoon, Assistant Principal Gloria Gonzales said Adrian represents Mark Twain in every positive way. She knows that he has younger brothers Nathaniel Trevino, 1, and Samuel De La Paz, 8, “so right away when I heard it was him, I knew he knew what to do.
“And he’s just an overall good person — ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘Yes, ma’am,’ well-behaved. We’re proud of him.”
So is his mom, as she should be. The MPD post had nearly 120 comments mid-afternoon Monday, with more coming in. They praised Adrian and, in many cases, good parenting.
“I am so happy my son kept that little one safe,” his mom, Maria Lupita Castro, posted. “He is an awesome and good kid.”