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Lathrop teen returned wallet with $2,000

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Lathrop teen returned wallet with $2,000

Lathrop High School student Matthew Hernandez listens as his name is read by a Lathrop Police School Resource Officer during a special award presentation at the Lathrop Council meeting Monday night.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED December 3, 2013 12:55 a.m.

LATHROP – Matthew Hernandez could be $2,000 richer.

He could have a new Playstation 4, the newest Nike basketball shoes or the most expensive jeans he could find in the store – or all of that – and still have cash left in his pocket.

And all he would have had to do was walk away.

But when the 16-year-old Lathrop High School student stumbled across a wallet in the parking lot in the Save-Mart parking lot that contained 20 fresh $100 bills, his first instinct wasn’t what he could he do with the money, but how he was going to find the person who had dropped it.

On Monday, the Lathrop City Council presented Hernandez a special “Honoring Honesty” certificate after the clerk at the supermarket that he contacted had informed local sheriff’s deputies of his selfless actions. The man who had lost the wallet walked up during the exchange.

“I was speechless when I heard about it,” Hernandez said of the recognition. “This is something that I’ll remember for a long time. It’s something that’ll stay with my family.”

And the soft-spoken young man who hopes to follow his father – longtime local youth football coach Jaime Hernandez – into law enforcement couldn’t help but crack a smile as Lathrop’s elected leaders beamed about how proud they were to have a young man like him in their community.

“It would have been so easy for you to take that money,” Councilman Steve Dresser said. “But you had the mortal fortitude not to do that, because of something that you learned from your mother and father or from school or from your church.

“But you didn’t hesitate – you didn’t take half of it or part of it. And that gives me hope in the future of our youth and it’s evident when I look at examples like this that you help make our community a better place.”

Lathrop School Resource Officer Val Cardoza introduced Hernandez to the council and talked about how when she meets students it’s so often because of disciplinary issues or factors that are beyond what would be considered ideal.

Knowing that young people like Hernandez are out there, she said, is reassuring.

“It’s a great feeling as a police officer to see youth like Matthew make these kinds of choices,” she said.

Hernandez’ parents – Jaime and Toni – were on hand to take pictures of their son with the council. Every member offered their own personalized thanks.

“Keep doing what it is that you’re doing – integrity is its own reward,” Councilman Paul Akinjo said. “You’re doing the right thing. It might not always be easy, but it will pay off – I promise you.”

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