Under the cap: Getting to know security guard AJ Frazier

Photo by Malena Cardona

As time ticks toward the end of the passing period, AJ Frazier, with a cane in hand and United States Marine Corps veteran cap on his head, begins ensuring that every student is getting to class on time in the bustling hallway. He looks them in the eyes. Some students get hollered at and others begin to move faster. When the bell rings and most students are finally in their classes, Frazier sits in his chair and patrols the hallway, keeping an eye out for stray students.

Frazier has worked as a security guard for 33 years, with the past 18 years being at Lowell. Students know Frazier as a security guard, or the guy with the cane, but much of his life outside of Lowell is a mystery to most.

Frazier attended Mission High School in the mid-’70s, where he played football as the cornerback and tight end. The team was close to unbeaten, having lost only one game throughout the whole season. According to Frazier, his favorite memory in high school was beating Lowell’s football team. “Lowell had the students with the brains. My school, Mission, had the kids with the muscles,” he said. “Lowell kids thought they were smarter than we were, and [that they] were gonna beat us on the football field.” With a mischievous grin, Frazier says he was happy to have proven them wrong. 

Upon graduating high school, Frazier became a member of the United States Marine Corps. Frazier recalled the day when he hiked up steep mountains in the heavy rain for eight hours while carrying an 85-pound backpack. According to Frazier, he and his teammates were slipping and sliding under the downpour, but this mission brought them together. “We formed a lot of trust and close relationships,” Frazier said. When someone slipped, Frazier would grab their arm or backpack and pull them back up. A handful of the tight-knit relationships Frazier formed still exist today. 

Photo courtesy of AJ Frazier

Despite the intense work in the Marine Corps, Frazier enjoyed the opportunities he had to travel to various places around the world, such as Japan, Alaska, South Korea, and the Philippines. According to Frazier, these trips were like his “little tours,” exciting adventures of experiencing different cultures and eating ethnic foods he had never seen before. In Japan, Frazier tasted food that he still misses to this day. “The food I had in Japan was scrumptious,” Frazier said. “It cannot compare to American Japanese restaurants.”

After serving in the Marines for four years, Frazier got an undergraduate degree in accounting at the City College of San Francisco. However, he didn’t continue down the accounting pathway for long after losing interest in the field. Soon after, Frazier found a job as a security guard and began working with students. “I landed a job with the school district and I got to run all you kids and started enjoying what I was doing,” Frazier said.  

Frazier began working at Mission High School in 1989. According to him, working at Mission was a very different experience compared to working at Lowell. “Fights just about every day. Alcoholics, weed smokers, and gun toters? Yes. A little bit of everything,” he said. Frazier was transferred to Lowell 16 years later and has been working here ever since. 

Passing period is one of his favorite parts of the day. In the bustling and packed hallway, Frazier makes sure all students get to class on time. According to Frazier, he isn’t afraid to occasionally holler at students and use a bit of sarcasm. “I just tell them straight up: ‘Jesus Christ! You move slower than my grandmother. And my grandmother is dead!’” Frazier said. The sarcastic remarks bring a smile to students’ faces as they speed up their walk to class.

I just tell them straight up: ‘Jesus Christ! You move slower than my grandmother. And my grandmother is dead!’

— AJ Frazier

As a security guard, Frazier also enjoys getting to know students as they progress throughout high school, and helping them if he can. “Every couple of years, while I’m at school, different generations come through and each generation has their own little personalities,” he said. Frazier tries to keep up with the trends of each generation as a way to build relationships with students. According to Frazier, he wants students to feel comfortable opening up to him if they ever need anything. “I want to see the young survive and I want to see the young exceed,” Frazier said. “Helping people. That’s my personality. All my life I’ve been helping people. I’ve never depended on anybody to help me, so I help others.”

Every year, graduation is one of Frazier’s favorite moments at Lowell. Watching each graduating senior walk down the stage, Frazier feels happy seeing them move onto their next chapter of their lives. “A lot of them do know me by the end of those four years and will shake my hands and I congratulate them and get the final hugs, which are very exciting,” he said. “So that means I did my job.”

Photo courtesy of AJ Frazier

Outside of Lowell, Frazier’s main hobby is fishing. Every weekend, and sometimes for a whole week, Frazier will pack up his truck and drive off by himself or with his family to fish. Frazier loves the process of waiting for freshwater fishes such as catfish, striped bass, and sturgeon to bite the bait. Lying back in his chair, Frazier enjoys the moment of stillness as he watches the fishing poles and the soothing scenery. “I don’t have to be around three thousand kids,” Frazier laughs. “It’s just me, the water, and peace.” This weekly habit erases Frazier’s built tension over the work week and energizes Frazier for another week of working with students. One day Frazier hopes to combine the hobby he loves with his experience working with students. His dream is to bring the special education students at Lowell to Lake Merced and teach them how to fish. “I’ve been here a long time and it may happen one day before I retire,” he said.

Working as a security guard in SFUSD for around 33 years, Frazier likes doing his job, making sure students are safe and getting every minute of education in. According to Frazier, if students could smile and tell him that they are heading to class without him having to holler at them, it would make his job easier. At the same time, he hopes that they will consider coming to him for help and listening to his advice. “Do what you have to do, take your butt to class, and get your education. Make your parents proud. Every minute counts,” Frazier said.