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Lathrop teen learns lesson in karma

Returned a wallet with $2K; rewarded with PS4, scholarship

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Lathrop teen learns lesson in karma

Matthew Hernandez expresses his shock as Phil Waterford Jr. presents him with a Playstation 4 after learning that the Lathrop High School junior returned a wallet to its owner that contained $2,000...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED December 6, 2013 12:12 a.m.

LATHROP – Phil Waterford wasn’t having the best day.

But when he picked up the newspaper and saw a story about a Lathrop teenager that returned a man’s wallet that contained $2,000 in cash, he froze. That shaky feeling that comes when you start to let your emotions take over began to resonate.

Tears welled in his eyes.

And he knew right then and there that he had to do something to show the young man that integrity does in fact pay off.

So while the Lathrop High junior was chatting with local media outlets Thursday afternoon and shaking the hands of local dignitaries like San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore, Waterford arrived with a pair of gifts that he’s not soon going to forget.

A $6,000 college scholarship and a Playstation 4.

Waterford’s voice cracked during brief remarks before handing over the envelope – stopping twice to wipe tears from the corner of eyes – and the man that has become revered for his generosity in the community seemed to be in awe of the soft-spoken and shocked young man in his Spartans wrestling warm-up jacket. 

“Somebody so young to make a choice like that – the right decision – should be rewarded,” Waterford said. “I always tell kids that good choices will be rewarded and bad choices will have consequences, and this is a prime example of that. These are challenging times for a lot of people and he could have easily walked away with that money and that could have been devastating to somebody, but he did what was right.

“When I read that, it made my whole day.”

Hernandez received a special award on Monday night from the Lathrop City Council and from his peers at Lathrop High School, and said that he was “shocked” then that somebody would go out of their way to offer recognition for him doing something that was fundamentally right.

With college ambitions – hoping for Stanford or Oregon State – and desires to follow his father into law enforcement, Hernandez was blown away that he now has a jump-start to his college education and that somebody would do something so nice for him.

“I really don’t know what to say right now,” he said. “This all feels like a dream. For somebody to be kind enough to give me a $6,000 for a scholarship – I’m speechless.

“All of this is probably going to hit me tonight when I get home. But right now it all feels like a dream.”

Back in the corner of the small room where the brief ceremony took place stood the dominating figure of Hernandez’ father Jaime – a giant in the community known for his years of selfless service as the founder of the Lathrop Jr. Spartans.

While Hernandez knew that Waterford was coming, he had no idea what was coming with him.

And he couldn’t have been prouder of the 16-year-old boy that stood in front of him.

“I’m so proud of him. My mother always told me that the best that you can do as a father is raise your children in the best environment you can because there will come a point when there’s nothing else you can do – when they’ll have to make their own decisions,” Hernandez said. “He came home and told me what he did, and I told him ‘Son, you did the right thing. People are going to tell you that you should have kept it and everything like that, but karma is alive and well in this world.’

“As a father and a working man, that was somebody’s mortgage and the food that they were going to put on the table, and he would get that back tenfold by doing the right thing. And look what just happened.”

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