CROSSING GUARD GET KIDS OFF TO SAFE START, RAIN OR SHINE
By Wayne Grant, Ormond Beach Observer
“Look what I got!” a smiling young girl said to a crossing guard on her way home from Ormond Beach Elementary School.
The guard looked approvingly at the hand-made magic wand she was brandishing.
“Did you make that?” the guard asked. “That’s really good.”
These friendly exchanges are common each morning and afternoon at Ridgewood Avenue and Old Tomoka Road, where Volusia County crossing guards help children across a bustling Granada Boulevard.
“I try to make them smile,” said guard Willie-Mae Mitchell. “They need something positive to go to school with. I think they look forward to seeing me.”
There’s some time waiting for the light to change, and that’s when crossing guard Christine Dixon said she gets to know the kids and have a positive impact.
“They tell you about their report cards, and I tell them they did a good job,” Dixon said. “I want to encourage them. We’re the first people they see in the morning. You don’t know how it might impact their day.”
Last Friday was School Crossing Guard Appreciation Day throughout the state and, in Volusia County, Sheriff Ben Johnson wrote a letter of appreciation to the about 115 guards under his employ.
“Every day you are there,” he wrote, “rain or shine, on freezing cold mornings and on hot, humid afternoons, protecting our most precious resource.”
The guards not only help them cross the street safely but also teach good safety habits.
“I tell them to look left and right,” Dixon said. “They’ll take this with them the rest of their lives.”
Mitchell said parents walking children to school should set an example for children and always obey the crossing guard’s instructions.
“The kids need to learn to respect people in authority,” she said. “Start when they are little.”
If they could tell drivers one thing, both guards said it would be to “be patient.” Drivers must wait until a guard leaves the road before they continue on their way, they said, because you never know when a child might run into the street.
“Kids are unpredictable,” Mitchell said. “They might turn and run back because they forgot their homework.”
The guards have seen changes through the years, not only in the increase in traffic but also the pace of life.
“People are more distracted and under a lot of pressure,” Mitchell said. “I see them on the phone or even putting on makeup.”
Standing by the street each morning and afternoon requires vigilance. Mitchell can point out several dents in nearby walls along the sidewalk where cars have crashed, and recent tire tracks where someone cut across the sidewalk making a turn.
They agreed it’s a rewarding part-time job.
“I enjoy getting up early and greeting the kids,” Mitchell said.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151