Royce Hughes Protects and Connects With SRHS Students


Max Hattenbach, Contributor

The score was 21-15 when Royce Hughes got up from his chair. He had been up most of the game, but at this time his enthusiasm was especially needed. As the volleyball team trailed 2 sets to 1 against their rival Terra Linda, the crowd had gone lifeless. Suddenly, Hughes, a member of SRHS security, burst into a sprint up and down the sideline.

As he ran, he jumped and waved his hands in the air, looking to draw out new energy in the crowd. “He’s a great hype man,” said senior Luke Davis, who found himself pumping his fist in sync with Hughes.

Soon, everyone was on their feet, and the team seemed to find their feet as well. From that point on, Hughes did not leave his feet, and once the comeback was complete and San Rafael High had won the game 3 sets to 2, he was one of the first people on the court to celebrate.

Hughes, a 2007 graduate of Kennedy High School in Richmond, didn’t enter the security field right out of high school. Hughes found himself playing football at Contra Costa College before earning himself an athletics scholarship to Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.

Eventually, football came to an end, which left him at a temporary roadblock. “I had to figure it out,” said Hughes. And so, after returning home to the Bay Area, the search for a job began.

Hughes’ first introduction into the field of school security came when he was offered a position at McClymonds High School in Oakland. Eventually, he departed from McClymonds and applied for a position at San Rafael High. He knew he loved working with kids, and San Rafael was only a 15-minute drive from the east bay, making it seem all the more attractive.

Hughes, 32, is now in his 6th year at San Rafael High School. As a school supervisor, more commonly referred to as a school security guard, Hughes makes sure students are in class and patrols bathrooms for mischief, but his work does not stop at that. He puts a tremendous amount of effort toward connecting with students on a much more personal level.

“A therapist, a big brother, a mentor, an OG Uncle, I’m all that in one,” he said. On the day that I had set up an interview with Hughes, I searched for him around campus. When I found Hughes, he told me to, “wait right there,” as he continued talking with a female student about her struggles at school and at home. Once he had provided some needed words of encouragement and had walked the student to her next class, Hughes, as promised, returned right on schedule for his interview.

“I want students to feel like their best self,” said Hughes. “I know some of the students don’t really listen, but as long as I can reach one student I’m happy.”

It is for this reason that Hughes hopes to eventually become an athletics coach, whether it be at San Rafael or at another school. Because of his history as an athlete and his innate ability to connect with youth, Hughes feels that he would offer a lot to young athletes.

“I’ve seen so much talent go through this school. I feel like the number one thing they lack is confidence,” said Hughes. “It’s okay to feel like you are the best when you walk on the floor, the field, the theatre, whatever it is.”

Hughes also has experience as a coach. He works a part-time job at summer camps for the City of Berkeley’s Parks and Recreation department. Working with younger kids during the summer reminds Hughes of his love for working with youth.

Building relationships with students is something that Hughes experienced first hand during his time in high school. He recalls getting to know his own security guard, who would then let him and his friends leave campus to get lunch at McDonalds at a time when off-campus lunch was not allowed. Hughes would then make sure to bring back something for the security guard, as this was a mutual bond that they had formed.

It is for this reason that Hughes places such a strong emphasis on straightforwardness when dealing with students. “I want to help you,” he said. “I just need you to be straight up with me.” Even if a group of students may be doing something that is not allowed on campus, Hughes wants to offer advice rather than a strict punishment. “I know there is some stuff that goes on that I just can’t stop,” said Hughes. “If you tell the truth to me, I can at least help you be safe about it.” Keeping students safe is of utmost importance to Hughes.

Whether it’s his 6 foot 5 appearance, his Silver Bullet Air Max 97s, or the fact that he is one of the youngest members of the faculty, Royce Hughes sticks out like a sore thumb. He offers a youthfulness that is scarce in the demographic of high school faculty.

Hughes feels that his connection to social media, the community, sports, and other areas that students are involved with helps him to be a better resource to the school. Once Hughes understands the kids he is working security for, he understands how to recognize behavioral red flags that may indicate a dispute, brewing conflict, or a problem that a student is dealing with silently.

Perhaps stronger than his connection to San Rafael’s youth and community is Hughes’ connection to the East Bay community. Alongside five of his closest friends and family members, Hughes runs a nonprofit called The Black Neighborhood, which is aimed to empower and uplift youth and communities through community service. The group also focuses on black mental health and inspires black youth to move outside of their comfort zone.

Every November and December, the nonprofit group has “giveback” events in which they give away 500 free turkeys and presents to families in the community. The Black Neighborhood’s scholarship fund also recently awarded their first scholarship of $6,000 to three students in the community. These students also received two free flights to and from wherever they may be attending college.

“Who knows what the future may hold,” said Hughes when asked about any career or life goals he might be working toward. He would definitely be interested in taking the reins from Head of Security Ben Johnson, but for the most part Hughes likes to live in the moment. “One day at a time,” he said.

In his life outside of school, Hughes is most definitely living in the moment. He is a very active individual that loves more passive activities such as hiking and the outdoors, but is also no stranger to nightlife.

Hughes is the first cousin of Bay Area rapper Iamsu, and has spent a lot of time at music events and other functions with him. Hughes recalls the time where he and Iamsu were invited to a post-game party at Klay Thompson’s Oakland Hills mansion. He also recalls coming face to face with NBA superstar and ex-Warrior Kevin Durant in the moshpit of an Oakland club. Durant, who is officially listed at 6’10” tall, made even Hughes feel short.

When you walk on campus at San Rafael High, you can’t miss him. And most often, he won’t let you get away without a greeting. Whether he pulls you aside to give you a pep talk before a big game, or asks you about the homework you are working on in the library, Royce Hughes truly makes an effort to show interest in the lives of students. “I’m a people person,” he said. ”I’ll talk to whoever.”

Sophomore James Rider recalls feeling intimidated by Hughes when he first came to campus as a freshman. “Once I understood who he was and what he was about I wasn’t intimidated at all,” said Rider. “He is a good guy with a large personality and a good heart.”

In the time he has been at San Rafael High, Royce Hughes has become one a legend among the student body. Although he has not yet made some of the transitions that he would like to make in the future, it is clear that Hughes is much more than just a school security guard. He is an essential faculty and community member at San Rafael High.

“I’m not just this big black security guard that’s out to get everybody in trouble,” said Hughes. “Like I said before, I’m a big brother, I’m a mentor, I’m a therapist, and then, I’m your security guard.”