Hawaii’s Tevaga named nation’s top student resource officer
By Dan Campana
In a world filled with full-circle stories, Maui Police Officer Marvin Tevaga might represent the epitome of their importance.
Tevaga has spent 10 years as a police officer and the last four as student resource officer. He currently works at King Kekaulike High School. Without his own connection to an SRO in his formative years, it’s likely Tevaga wouldn’t be where he is today.
“As a youth, I got into a lot of trouble and had been arrested multiple times as a juvenile. (My SRO) created a relationship with me that allowed me to trust police. She created a club for us called ‘The Future Club’ which had youth from all backgrounds,” Tevaga explained. “Being around ‘good kids,’ I decided I needed to change my environment and change my attitude. She helped me realize I don’t have to be on the troubled path.”
From those roots, Tevaga has blossomed into a mentor and guiding force for the students he works with every day. His efforts recently earned him the National Association of School Resources Floyd Ledbetter Officer of the Year Award – the first officer from Hawaii to ever receive the honor.
“When I found out initially I was totally surprised. In actuality, the realization never hit me until I received the award in Reno (at NASRO’s annual safety conference) in front of the nation. (I’m) truly thankful to be an SRO and blessed to have the opportunity to serve our kids,” Tevaga offered. “To be honored amongst so many powerful and motivating officers is very humbling.”
NASRO officials cited a variety of above-and-beyond contributions Tevaga has made as an SRO – from officiating flag football games and leading traffic safety programs to executing search warrants to take down drug dealers who sold to juveniles. Tevaga is also credited with saving the life of a student by performing CPR for several minutes.
For Tevaga, it all comes back to the common Hawaiian word of aloha, which he explained carries meaning beyond being an expression of love, a greeting and a good bye.
“(It) also transcends a feeling of gratitude and respect,” he shared. “I have always wanted to be an SRO because of the example my SRO had been on me. My motivation to come to work every day is to help students and be that someone for them. I hope to pass on the aloha grace and charity that was extended to me to the future.”
That means Tevaga walks into school each day with the goal to reach out and say hello to everyone, while keeping a sharp eye out for the child who might need help.
“If they’re having a bad day, they need help with school work, they want to ‘talk story’ and tell me how they’re doing in sports – I just want to be there for them and share aloha,” Tevaga offered.
Those simple guiding principles tie into what being a police officer means to Tevaga. Serving and helping others is a “huge responsibility,” he believes, taken on by those focused on the greater good.
“The saying ‘If not us, then who?’ has become a mantra for me and gives me the drive each day to do police work. If not us, who is going to answer the call to go to an unresponsive person, a traffic accident, an assault and to that person who dials 911 pleading for help? To me, wearing the badge means being there for my family and friends.
“I honestly feel that I am doing what all SROs do for our kids and that is to teach, mentor and uplift by creating a safe environment for them to learn and grow,” he added.
Read the entire 50 Badges series here.