Kristin Villanueva was her high school’s valedictorian and on her way to study engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. During her four years at El Segundo High School, Kristin tutored numerous students both at her school and across her community to save money for college. The El Segundo High School valedictorian resisted touching the savings. She knew she would need the money for college. But then she was hit hard right in the feels. She came home one time to find out burglars had robbed her house and stole her college fund.
Robbers stole $2,000 in saved tutoring money that had been saved for college, but that's when El Segundo police came to the rescue. She did NOT expect this to happen. Not even close!
Only two weeks prior, before taking a weekend trip with her parents for freshman orientation at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she was accepted to pursue materials engineering, the 17-year-old opened her money pouch and counted her earnings.
But when the family returned, Villanueva opened the front door to see that burglars had broken in a window and rifles through the home, taking off with jewelry and cash.
“They went through my drawers and my closet, my sister’s room and my parents room - it was a mess,” she recalled.
"She would rush from going to her internships, coming back to tutor, and sometimes not eating lunch because she's so busy with school work and engineering club, robotics until eight, nine at night," said her mother, Jane Kihara. "She worked hard for it, every penny."rn
“I was in shock, mainly,” she said. “I was really upset because it was a lot of my hard work that I had been putting aside and I didn’t spend any of that money.”
Villanueva’s parents filed am official police report and began picking up the pieces.
But what they did not know was that the officer investigating the crime, Detective Scott O’Connor, knew their daughter’s name as the class valedictorian.
O’Connor, a board member of the El Segundo Police Officers Association, spoke with union leaders about doing something to help the model student.
“We started talking and we said, ‘She’s a valedictorian, a really good kid, she’s done everything right in her life, why don’t we set up something so the El Segundo community can help her?’ ” said Officer Joe Cameron, union president.
He phoned Villanueva and informed her they were making a GoFundMe page to help get back some the money.
What happened next, was nothing short of awesome.
Within just a few days, contributions from police officers, City Hall employees and members of the small town dubbed “Mayberry by the Sea” more than doubled what Villanueva had lost.
As of the time this article was written donations had reached exactly $5,340.
“The support from the El Segundo community was incredible,” Cameron said. “From El Segundo employees to El Segundo residents, everyone pitched in. Community support like this is why I’m proud to be the president of this association and serve this amazing community.”
While the law enforcement officers may not have been at this student’s house to protect her savings, they were sure to serve up the money that she lost – and then some.
Kristin Villanueva, who is using her summer break to work as a tennis coach before heading to San Luis Obispo in September, expressed deep gratitude to the police union and entire community for their unbelievable generosity.
She endeavors to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering and someday work in the aerospace industry, having already interned for Boeing and Northrop Grumman.
The police officers presented a check to a beaming Kristin Tuesday.
“It was a bummer, but I’m really happy that they were able to turn it around,” she said.
Villanueva says the community's kindness has boosted her inspiration to do well in school and beyond so she can give back to the place that has given her so much.
“It’s really cool to see how great this community is,” Villanueva said.
Indeed, Kristin, good news is great news! We will be keeping an eye on this story to see if the thieves are brought to justice.