I’m more than just a: security guard

Guards elaborate on their lives outside of protecting school

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Every day, we walk through the doors to school, thinking ahead to that homework we need to get done in advisery or the friends we get to see. But who are the faces that look out for our safety at every entrance and check us into school when we’re late?

Take Tina Lopiccolo, who currently works as a Winnetka security guard. She has an associate’s degree in baking and pastry and during her time off, she enjoys baking and decorating cakes. Lopiccolo modestly admitted that she’s been told on multiple occasions that she makes “phenomenal sugar and chocolate chip cookies.”

“How I Met Your Mother” and “Downton Abbey” are her favorite shows, but she’s also a self-professed movie buff. A game she also enjoys playing with her boyfriend and family includes listening to a theme song and guessing which movie or TV show it comes from.

Growing up, she was an avid figure skater and continues this passion even today. “Winter’s my favorite season because I love to figure skate, and I’m honestly happy doing it anywhere,” said Lopiccolo.

Johnyell Owens, another security guard, has been working at New Trier for 14 years and can often be seen enthusiastically greeting students in the hallway. He’s a lover of sports, especially basketball and he enjoys sports shows like QB1 and The Chi.

Owens is also interested in fish and used to have a variety, ranging from cychlids to silver dollars to guppies to tiger bars to beta fish: all community fish, ones that enjoy being with other fish. Owens is a fan of rap artist Roddy Ricch, the new 2 Chainz album, “Rap or Go to the League,” 21 Savage’s hit “a lot,” as well as numerous Chicago locals, such as Lil Zay Osama and El Hitta.

“I used to write music,” explained Owens. “But my main thing now is that I want to get into motivational speaking,” he said. When he isn’t at New Trier, Owens can be found at Oakton Community College, attending a speech class or taking an online class.

In the African-American community, many young kids look up to stars such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Owens hopes to convey through speeches that that isn’t the only path in life, a target audience of mainly kids from as young as fifth grade up to even 25-year-olds.

“Don’t count yourself short, you’re valuable just like everybody else. We’re supposed to be the bad guys who getting in trouble, but you’re great and you can do amazing things. It’s okay to be business-minded. You don’t have to be Drake or Lil Wayne, you can just be a normal guy,” he said.

Owens promotes this message even in everyday life as the coach of a middle school basketball team for the last five years. “I like to give back to the kids. I feel like I’m giving to the future of America, shining a positive light, being a positive black male influence,” stated Owens.

Just after he finished college and before coming to NT, Owens worked in the Navy where he had the opportunity to travel to destinations ranging from Hong Kong to Hawaii.

“Honor, courage, and commitment are the Navy’s core values, and I try to put that into my everyday life. As a father, it taught me how to have direction in my life. You’re not just a follower, you’re gonna turn into a leader one day. It taught me to be a real man and to take care of my family and provide and not only to care for them, but also to teach,” said Owens.

Since Owens didn’t have a father figure in his life growing up, he acknowledged that it’s taken him a bit longer to catch up to others who were able to experience that kind of support. He sees that black kids are the most scrutinized, so he desires to motivate the families as well as the kids who don’t really get the motivation from anywhere else.

“They really have nothing and they came from the bottom. But I’m not just trying to motivate them, I’m also trying to motivate other races so they can help black youth as well. I’m just trying to make our community better with all the black stereotypes in the media, giving back to the comment. When people are like, ‘why do you wanna be a motivational speaker?’ I’m just trying to put people in a position to be able to do more,” stated Owens.

Like Owens and Lopiccolo, the security guards at our school have intriguing lives that go beyond checking our IDs when we walk into school late. The next time you see a security guard, don’t hesitate to offer up a friendly greeting because just like us, they are more than what they seem.

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