Safety and Service, With a Smile

By Donna Birch Trahan, External Relations


Security Team Makes the Rounds at DCC

Public service officers Adam Ferdin and Lenes Hopkins-Chery are the Downtown Campus Center’s very own dynamic duo.

Stationed at the building’s main entrance, their job is to ensure the safety of the DCC and its occupants. They support the campus police department and its officers by serving as the eyes and ears of the DCC.

In the four months since the DCC opened, staff members have gotten to know Adam and Lenes as the men make their daily rounds through the building and manage the front desk. But there’s much more to them than meets the eye.

Rooted in Merced, Adam Ferdin Enjoys the People of the DCC

Adam joined UC Merced in January, but the university isn’t new to him. The Merced County native grew up hearing about the campus even before it broke ground.

He’s amazed at how fast the campus is maturing and how it’s changing the region for the better. Those factors made him want to be part of UC Merced’s community.

“I enjoy working at the Downtown Campus Center because of the people I’m able to serve,” he said. “It’s a big melting pot with individuals from all walks of life. As I make my rounds through the building, I’m able to speak with people, listen to their concerns or just make small talk. I get to know them as individuals, not just work colleagues.”

Starting this fall, Adam will do his part to help female students, staff and faculty learn to defend themselves. He recently earned his certification in the UC Merced Police Department’s Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program. Designed for women, RAD teaches realistic, effective self-defense techniques that can be used regardless of physical fitness conditioning, age, strength or abilities.

He also practices and teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a style of martial arts designed to give a smaller, weaker person an advantage over a stronger, more athletic opponent by using leverage, timing and taking the fight to the ground. He’s competed, trained and taught it for the past eight years.

Adam’s roots run deep in the community. He was born at Castle Air Force Base when it was still an active military base and grew up in the small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Le Grand, east of Merced. He lives in Merced with his wife Elena and their two children: daughter, Adalena, 5, and son Adam, 2. He describes Elena as his better half. His mother and her father were classmates at Le Grand High School, “so I’ve always known about her,” he said. “She’s a real-life super woman.”

Elena’s family moved to Fresno when she and Adam were young. Fast forward to 2012 and the two met again at a cookout hosted by a mutual friend.

“I instantly recognized her,” he said. “We ended up at a park where we talked for hours. After I got home, I called her, and we spoke for a few more hours. From that day on, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.” They spend as much time as possible enjoying the outdoors, taking trips with their little ones and firing up their backyard grill. “My biggest weakness is that I love food,” he said. “Who doesn’t love a good barbecue?”

He says a little-known fact about him is his creative streak.

“I enjoy drawing, painting and coloring, even though I may not be great at it,” he said. He also volunteers at Merced Baptist Church as a youth leader and Sunday school teacher to middle- and high school-aged kids. One day, he hopes to open his own martial arts studio and travel the world.

“The first place I’d go would be to Seville, Spain,” he said. “I have family roots there and would love to see where our story began.”

A Frequent World Traveler, Lenes Hopkins-Chery is Proud to Call UC Merced Home Base

People called James Brown the hardest-working man in show business, but Lenes Hopkins-Chery could give him a run for his money.

Just looking at his list of passion projects, volunteer activities, hobbies and interests would make most people sit down to catch their breath.

In addition to his full-time job at UC Merced, he travels from city to city on weekends as an entertainment promoter; volunteers as a youth coach and mentor at a camp for Native American kids; is a former track athlete, die-hard sports enthusiast and tennis buff. Ask him how he manages his time and he’ll share one of his mantras: Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat.

"Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat."

“Working with UC Merced is my job; the rest I consider my passions and my hobbies,” Lenes said. “UC Merced is a great foundation. It provides a good base to help get me where I want to be. The campus will continue to grow with the Merced 2020 Project, and I want to be a part of that growth. There’s a lot I can learn by being a part of this institution.”

He credits his parents and family for modeling a strong work ethic and the charitable act of service and giving back. Originally from Haiti, he immigrated to the United States with his family as a child in 1993. Before the move, his family owned land and operated a coffee bean farm where they grew food and shared it with others who were less fortunate. His mom, a chef, routinely cooked for the whole neighborhood.

After the family moved to the States, they settled in Kansas City, Mo. He attended Park University to study criminal justice and law enforcement administration and ran for the track and field team as an undergraduate.

That’s where he met his wife Sarah, head coach of UC Merced’s women’s basketball team. She played on Park University's basketball team and he ran for the track team. One night, the two athletes ended up at the same Halloween party. He saw her across the room and was instantly smitten. The two celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary this year.

Through Sarah, he gained another love: coaching and mentoring at-risk Native American youths. Their university was involved with a program called Native Vision, a national youth enrichment program for indigenous children, operated by Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.

Sarah was already involved in the program and after they started dating, Lenes started volunteering, too. After two years, he became director of the track and field program. This year, he marked his 10th anniversary with Native Vision.

"the campus will continue to grow with the merced 2020 project, and i want to be a part of that growth. there's a lot i can learn by being a part of this institution."

In June, he traveled to Shiprock, N.M., to coach and mentor Navajo Nation children. He said working with the kids — as many as 200 — has been a blessing.

“That’s my passion,” he said. “I train with them, run with them, and it is competitive. We mix life skills with the love of sports to connect with Native youths and help them tackle some of the most troubling issues they face on the reservation. I love being a part of their vision and an influence to become something great.”

Lenes is good at turning his passions into projects, including his love of music. That’s how he and two college friends launched an entertainment promotion business — JSL Entertainment — in 2011. They hit the jackpot with their first event: promoting a celebrity basketball tournament hosted by former Los Angeles Lakers Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Clay Johnson. Lenes hopes to expand the business to include organizing and promoting more charitable and philanthropic events.

He has another goal on his list of things to accomplish: more international travel.

“I’ve been blessed to go to Europe every summer,” he said. “I’ve been to Canada, Johannesburg, Dubai and Belgium.”

Visiting Australia and New Zealand top his bucket list. “I’ve read so much about them, especially their indigenous people,” he said. “I want to see a kiwi in its natural habitat.”

Donna Birch Trahan is the Internal Communications Coordinator for UC Merced. A former journalist, she worked for The Modesto Bee before joining the university in 2008. She’s a graduate of San Francisco State University. She lives in Merced with her husband and two sons.