SRHS Grad Mackenzie Hallroan Wants to Be a Different Kind of Cop


Ayiana Scott, Contributor

It all starts with a seemingly simple question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The multitude of answers constantly evolve as children grow to adults, but for San Rafael High School graduate Mackenzie Hallroan, the answer has never changed. 

It was in 6th grade when she was first asked this question, and knowing that she wanted to help people, her thought process was simple: “My next door neighbor is a police officer and he helps people, so I want to be a police officer.” 

Currently, Mackenzie is studying Criminal Justice at Boise State in Idaho in hopes of someday becoming a police officer. However, in today’s climate and controversy regarding American police, she has admitted to feeling a bit awkward when telling people what she wants to do. Mackenzie hopes that through education, she will be able to approach the injustices in society with a more equitable view and be an advocate for changing the police force from the inside out.  

“I know it’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “But I hope I can impact people into trying the same thing as I am doing, so we have more people trying to be cops for the good reasons.”

Mackenzie was a part of San Rafael High School’s graduating class of 2020. Unlike many people, Mackenzie was able to discover much about who she wanted to be during her teenage years. Whether it be through the halls of SRHS, or playing up a storm in her school athletics, Mackenzie was there with a RBF smeared across her face. 

Nearly everyone who knows Mackenzie well has said that upon first meeting her, they were immediately intimidated by her fierce competitiveness and determination, which can be felt from a mile away. In spite of this, if you were to ask Mackenzie how she views herself, she would tell you that on the inside she is just a “cuddly teddy bear” who cares deeply for the people around her.

Growing up a white girl in Marin, Mackenzie constantly dealt with the preconceived notions that she was rich and extremely privileged. However, in Mackenzie’s case this could not be further from the truth. Throughout her childhood, her family was in a constant battle with finances. She is incredibly close with her family of four, but has never been the type to ask her parents for money so junior year, when her father was laid off from his job, she pushed herself to work two jobs in order to be more financially independent. 

“It felt like a lot to handle,” explained Mackenzie. From waking up at 7:20, to finishing school work and her job before sports practice, she felt exhausted by the end of each day. Yet, it was through these moments that she was able to learn to not prejudge people for which she knew nothing about. In ways, these were the experiences she needed in order to gain a new perspective on the people and social injustices all around her.

In high school, Mackenzie was known for being one of the most athletic girls on campus. She played three sports throughout each year, and while she claims to not be the best player on the court, I have come to realize that her passion for the game she plays is not only seen on the court, but  also in her passion for social change. 

“I wear my heart on my sleeve, like if I am mad you will see,” she said. “If you are not putting 100% effort into it, then what is the point?”

Oftentimes, you can see her fighting the referee when they have made a bad call or encouraging her teammates to do better when it is needed. But above this, Mackenzie has said that if her teammates were to say anything about her, she would hope they would say she was someone they could talk to. 

Ryan O’Hagan, a senior at SRHS and a former teammate of Mackenzies’ in both basketball and softball, said, “We went from being teammates to being family…She was my go-to person and I miss her a lot.” 

Similarly, Mackenzie’s high school classmate Libby Davis said, “She is the most hardworking, dedicated, caring, loving, and supportive person I’ve ever met, and I’m lucky enough to call her my best friend.”

And although Mackenzie has seemed to make an impact on the people around her, she has always strived to make a greater impact on the world and how people perceive each other within it. 

In high school, she joined Mrs. Padayachee’s Link Crew class, which works to create a more diverse and equal environment in the SRHS community. 

“I think Link helped better my passion for social justice,” she said. “We changed people’s views on immigrants, and it was honestly a life changer.” 

In an interview, Mackenzie told me a story about a friend of hers who, freshman year, asked her to go with her into the cafeteria because “they’re all in there.” On most days, the SRHS cafeteria is filled with latino students and is greatly separated from the white students who are usually found eating at Whole Foods or in their cars. While her friend did not recognize the racist undertones of this comment, Mackenzie had realized that there was a larger problem with segregation at SR then was being addressed. 

It wasn’t until an event put on by Mackenzie and other Link students that her friend’s perspective changed. The event was a showcasing of the emotional and toilsome journeys of several immigrant students at SR. Having personally gone to the event, I can say that it was truly an impactful moment in my life. The stories changed the viewpoints of many people in the theater, and allowed for a new understanding between the students and the events their peers went through or experienced daily. There were even a few tears.

“That night was when I realized what we’re doing in the [Link] class was actually important,” Mackenzie said. “I saw how I could help change people’s minds.”

As a senior, Mackenzie also took journalism, which she felt was a chance to bring awareness to the increased segregation that San Rafael High School was catering to. She didn’t want to write stories to just pass a class, she wanted to write stories that impacted how people saw the communities around them. 

“I basically only wanted to do opinion pieces,” she said laughing. “But beyond that, I knew that San Rafael was very segregated and I needed to write about it.”

For Mackenzie, the combination of fighting for equity in Link crew and writing to make change in journalism was a period in her life that solidified her passion for social change. 

Now, she has moved to her idea of the “perfect mix of small city and suburbs”: Boise, Idaho. 

Living in a place less diverse than San Rafael, she admits, has been an adjustment, and at times is a bit uncomfortable. However, she has found an importance in moving to an area where politics are “half and half” and will allow her to get a broader perspective on people in America. 

“I feel like people live their lives and just cruise through with what they are comfortable with, and I feel like you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to grow,” she said. “It’s different and it’s new, but I think it is important to diversify where you have been.”

When I asked her about her opinion of police in America and the increased controversy surrounding them she said, “I don’t believe that all cops are bad, I think there are just some bad apples. In order for the system to be fixed it needs more good people on the inside to fix it. And I mean, I think people would much rather see me in a uniform than some racist, old, white dude.”

This year Mackenzie, and thousands of other first-time voters, will be able to have a say on how this country is going to run for the next four years. She hopes to continue educating herself on the criminal justice system and encourages others to do the same so that together they can make for a stronger and more equitable police system in America. 

Near the end of my research, I decided to reach out to some of the teachers who Mackenzie felt truly helped her become the person she is now. Link crew teacher at SRHS Faye Padayachee said, “I really believe that Mackenzie will be a powerful advocate working within our criminal justice system because of her thoughtfulness, determination, and strong and true belief in justice.” 

Furthermore, SRHS math teacher Nicole Caiocca, who has formed a close friendship with Mackenzie over these past four years, said, “Even as a freshman Mackenzie was confident, well spoken and advocated for herself. She was an excellent student always creating beautiful, thoughtful work and asking questions when she had them. Mackenzie has always fought hard for the things she cares about and believes in. I am beyond proud of her for following her dreams and pursuing a degree in criminal justice at Boise.” 

Everyone who knows Mackenzie is excited to see where she takes this world. With her passion for change, she is setting the bar for a new generation of police who hope to create a more equitable justice system and a better police force for everyone.