The scent of fresh hot dogs wafted through the air at the Mira Costa High School campus Wednesday as hundreds of students and staff mingled with uniformed law enforcement.
The Manhattan Beach Police Department congratulated the 588 students of the Class of 2019 with a festive barbecue in their honor June 12.
“This is a special time of year for all of the Mira Costa graduates that have worked so hard to reach this very important time in their lives,” said Chief Derrick Abell. “I would like to congratulate each of them.”
It was the first time the department hosted the hot dog lunch—complete with music and several police vehicles on display—in an effort to give back to the community, according to Officer Kristie Colombo.
“We want to be there to support the students as they transition into the next step in their lives,” Colombo said.
Vice Principal Deborah Hofreiter explained the event was also to transition the students from being under the stewardship of the school and welcome them as adults within the community.
“It’s a community event for the seniors to be turned over to the police who will now be their protectors and caretakers,” Hofreiter said.
Senior Rebecca Rawson said the lunch highlighted the important role local law enforcement will now play in she and her peers' futures.
"No one thinks when they graduate high school I’m going to have to interact with cops now," Rawson explained. "It doesn’t mean negatively interact with them, but you need to know that there’s someone you can go to if need be."
The event was also timed as a lunch break following rehearsal for the seniors’ upcoming commencement ceremony, which is set for 5 p.m. June 13.
For many of the graduates, the barbecue came as an opportunity to relax after finals and prepare for the special moment.
"It's a very fun event and memorable for us students," said senior Lulu Yu. "I haven't heard of any other schools that do this. It's unique."
Yu said seeing law enforcement in a more casual environment also humanized the officers and see them as supporters, not just enforcers.
For the department, the lunch was a chance to strengthen local relations in a friendly, fun environment.
“We’ve always strived to have a positive relationship with the youth in the community,” said Captain Christian Eichenlaub, who helped coordinate the event. “We want to help the graduating class celebrate and we wish them luck and support them as they move forward in their lives.”