There may be smiles all around for the camera

Youth stand on guard for friends and others

Crossing guard program helps kids learn safety skills

Directing traffic and pedestrians can be an intimidating experience for adults with the mix of inattentive and impatient drivers on the roads, but kids at Willow Elementary are doing just that every school day.

More than 20 students volunteered to be crossing guards this year. For more than 10 years, Grade 5 students have been trained to aid children and adults navigating their way through the Dalhousie and Musgrave Street intersection each morning and afternoon.

“It can get very congested,” said school liaison officer Const. Julie Chanin about the intersection, which is very quiet outside the start and end of school. “It takes all of us to keep the community safe and this is a good example of kids, the youth in the community, doing that.”

Volunteers must be in Grade 5 be able to arrive at school 25 minutes early and stay 20 minutes after the bell, once a week for the entire school year, rain or shine. Students are provided with a handheld stop sign, vest and rain gear for their shifts. As a reward, the Kiwanis Club takes the volunteers out for two lunches during the year and the district provides swim passes. Chanin trained the young volunteers.

“We give them pointers on how to be assertive,” Chanin said, explaining it can be difficult for a 10-year-old to tell grown-ups what to do. “We tell them to observe body language and to stand out there and be confident in what they are doing.”

Four kids aid the one adult crossing guard each day, so an adult is always there to supervise and to take down information on aggressive drivers and rude pedestrians, which gets passed to school administrators or the Oak Bay police. Safety is a major concern and kids are told to observe and report, not to engage those breaking the rules.

This year’s crop of volunteer crossing guards started last week and they are already enjoying their new responsibilities.

“I like it a lot,” said Sela Piercy, 9. “It’s nice to help people cross when they need to cross the street. It’s nice to be out there, even though sometimes it can be cold.”

“I find it fun because I’m helping the community,” said Carson Freeman, 10. “People are really nice and you get thank yous from a lot of people.”

Iain Jaques also enjoys the work and praise he receives. He said the rain, cold and potential of snow in the winter does not faze him.

“I’m fine with the weather,” Jacques, 10, said. “They provide us with rain coats if I need it and this is a fun thing to do.”

Jayda Thor, 10, was in a Grade 4/5 split class last year and said hearing about her former classmates’ experience as a crossing guard prompted her to volunteer now that she is able to.

“It seemed like a good thing to do because you are helping people,” Thor said.

“There is nothing I don’t like about it yet.”