PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The first school year with armed security guards on Florida campuses just wrapped up.
- Jose Vazquez named Pasco County's Security Guard of the Year
- He served 20 years in law enforcement before joining school
- More Pasco County headlines
In Pasco County, one of those guards was just recognized for his service, becoming the county's first ever Security Guard of the Year.
His office is covered with awards and badges from his 20 years in law enforcement. But it's the thank you notes from students that mean the most to Jose Vazquez.
"This is the best gift we receive back," Vazquez said as he looked through a stack of notes on his deck.
He's still part time federal agent but now "Mr. Jose," as he's called by students, spends most of his time as the security guard at Seven Springs Elementary in Pasco County.
"So many high fives. Every day," Vazquez said.
After more than two decades of serving in police departments around the country, Vazquez says he's found his true call to action at the school.
"When I see the situation that happened around the U.S. in schools, I said, 'I have to do something. I have to do something else to protect students.'"
Seeing an armed security guard on campus was new territory for students, parents and staff heading into last year.
"This was a new thing to us last summer," said Seven Springs Principal Todd Cluff. "We didn't know what was coming. We weren't even the ones who got to select who was on our campus."
But staff says they lucked out with Mr. Jose, who actually had his son attend the same school a year prior.
"Right away, he made relationships with the children and staff," said Assistant Prinicpal Lynn Albert. "His heart is definitely in it. He's happy every day and the kids love him."
Teachers got together and nominated Vazquez for Pasco's first ever Security Guard of the Year, saying that not only is he an experienced guard, but he serves as a mentor for many students.
And now, Vazquez has a new award to add to his wall.
"It felt great. Because I remember when I was a cop before, no one said thank you for you service. It's different now," Vazquez said.
Florida law now requires that all elementary schools have an armed security guard on campus. That was passed in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.