Miami-Dade Police Officer Turns Childhood Dream Into Ride of a Lifetime

Hernandez and a pilot form a team that serves as the eyes in the sky for thousands of South Florida officers in and out of the department

A retired South Florida teacher who encouraged her classes to chase their dreams received a big thank you from a former second-grade student who recently landed his dream job within the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Officer Mario Hernandez, an 11-year veteran with the department, has dreamed about fighting crime from the sky for most of his life. It's a dream that literally came from above.

“Second grade…career day on a field and I was a kid," said Miami-Dade police officer Mario Hernandez. "I saw this helicopter land and it was captivating. It said Miami-Dade Police…And ever since then I knew I wanted to become a police officer.”

Hernandez joined the department's aviation unit as a tactical flight officer six months ago.

He and a pilot form a team that serves as the eyes in the sky for thousands of South Florida officers in and out of the department; Hernandez operates the chopper gadgets that assist with vehicle pursuits, suspect searches and even missing persons cases.

“It’s the best job in the county," said Hernandez.

It's a dream that may have never gotten off the ground had it not been for career day and his second-grade teacher Juli Prieto, who drove to the department's Opa-Locka airport hangar to take a ride with her former student, who is now living his dream.

NBC6 was there for the ride.

“He’s one of my Everglades students," said Prieto. "That’s what we used to call them — the dynamite kids.”

Mrs. Prieto is now retired but still remembers officer Hernandez' 1993 class. It's a trip down memory lane that she couldn't pass up.

“It’s wonderful that that day he was inspired," said Prieto. "To know he’s taken this course — policeman, you know, police officer so he goes and protects us; His community; I couldn’t be prouder.”

“I’m blessed, honored and humbled to have her riding with me," Hernandez said.

Hernandez, who wants to one day fly a Miami-Dade police helicopter, is thankful for Prieto's encouragement all those years ago.

“One phrase that sticks out is he who says he can, and he who says he can’t — are both usually right," said Hernandez. "And Mrs. Prieto told me that in second grade and she told me I could do anything I put my mind to.”

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