For years, Efren Carrillo has been a "career day" regular at Sonoma County schools.
At campuses such as Roseland Accelerated Middle School in Santa Rosa and Cali Calm?ac Language Academy in Windsor, the member of the county Board of Supervisors took seriously his job as an inspirational role model, always encouraging young Latino students to work hard and make the most of their parents' sacrifices — just as he has done.
Carrillo's story has resonated with countless children growing up in Sonoma County's immigrant communities, from college-bound students to at-risk gang wannabes. He chided them to do better in school, cleaned up garbage and graffiti alongside them and connected with them on a personal level few others in public office could.
For some of these young people, the arrest of the county's first Latino supervisor — on suspicion of prowling and burglary with the intent to commit sexual assault — is troubling on a personal level.
"He was like my idol," said Melina Rivera, 18, a Windsor High School graduate who will attend Sonoma State University in the fall.
Rivera said Carrillo visited her AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, class a few months ago to talk to students to about their goals and relate his experiences.
"I heard his story and got really inspired," she said. "I was like, 'Oh my God. I want to be like him, I want to have a future and be like him.'"
Carrillo, wearing just underwear and socks, was arrested near his west Santa Rosa home in the pre-dawn hours of July 13 after a nearby resident called 911 to report that someone was trying to get into her home through her bedroom window.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 30 after being arrested on suspicion of burglary with what Santa Rosa police said was an intent to commit some sort of sexual offense.
Carrillo issued a statement describing the incident as "embarrassing" and one that "involved alcohol."
It is the second time in less than a year that he has been arrested and been the target of a criminal investigation. San Diego authorities eventually chose not to prosecute him in the wake of a Labor Day street brawl outside a nightclub that left an Arizona man unconscious.
Educators and community organizers said many Latino students are shocked and disbelieving, confused by the news as it unfolded last week.
"For many Latino students, there are so few people in their lives that have reached that level of success," said Rebekah Cox Rocha, assistant principal at Cali Calm?ac.
Rocha, who said she's heard Carrillo speak to students many times, said he always got a round of enthusiastic applause when he told kids he was the first Latino to be elected to the Board of Supervisors.
"His story was their story. He could be their brother," she said. "I'm just so devastated. He spoke to so many kids and his message meant so much to them."
His background is familiar by now. He is the son of once-undocumented immigrants from Mexico who legalized their status under former President Ronald Reagan's Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
His parents built their home using sweat equity and with the help of Habitat for Humanity. He attended Santa Rosa High School, earned a black belt in taekwondo as a teenager, received a bachelor's degree in environmental economics and policy from UC Berkeley and experienced a quick rise in local politics, becoming supervisor at the age of 27.