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School patrol focuses on peer safety

Sporting bright yellow belts, students on the corner of Lamborn Avenue and North 23rd Street chanted in unison, matching actions to words. "One, two, three, flags up. One two, three, flags down. One, two, three, flags out." Cars rolled to a stop ...

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Members of the Northern Lights School Safety Patrol halt traffic to allow students with bikes to cross Lamborn Avenue Sept. 14. They are, left to right, back row, Julian Robbins and Aidan Robbins, front row, Aniya Beloch and MacKenzie Peterson. Safety patrol members play an active role in keeping children safe at Superior’s elementary schools. Maria Lockwood

Sporting bright yellow belts, students on the corner of Lamborn Avenue and North 23rd Street chanted in unison, matching actions to words.

"One, two, three, flags up. One two, three, flags down. One, two, three, flags out."

Cars rolled to a stop for the members of the Northern Lights School Safety Patrol as they stepped off the curb, orange flags held out, creating a safe corridor for children to walk along.

In total, about 200 students from Superior's six elementary schools and Cathedral School are involved in the safety patrol program each year.

"It takes a lot of getting up early and being nice to the people," said MacKenzie Peterson, who has been a member of the Northern Lights Safety Patrol for two years. Sometimes, the fifth grader said, they have to leave five minutes early from a fun class game to do their job.

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"It's a lot of work but it's also a lot of fun," MacKenzie said. "It pays off."

When the breakfast bell rings, safety patrol members are out on the curbs surrounding the school ready to help. About 10 minutes before the bell rings at the end of the day, they suit up and return to the job. Their main duty is helping fellow students cross the street safely. The youngsters also keep an eye out on what's happening, from noticing a suspicious person to alerting the school of an accident.

"The biggest part is having that commitment to be there every school day, morning and night, in any weather," said Police School Liaison Officer Mike Kendall with the Superior Police Department. "To be honest, they're doing a job most adults wouldn't want to do."

He stopped by Bryant Elementary School earlier this month to speak to students about the program. They practiced a few crossing moves, with Kendall taking the role of the car, and talked about the responsibilities involved. Many fourth and fifth graders grabbed sign-up sheets on their way back to class.

"They started this morning," said Bryant School Patrol Coordinator Angie Blaisdell, Monday. Parents at the school keep an eye out for school patrol members, she said, noting if they're dressed for the weather and the work they're doing.

"It's super important," Blaisdell said, and having them on the job keeps kids moving in an orderly fashion near the school.

The safety patrol is part of a nationwide program sponsored by the American Automobile Association (AAA). Students involved can earn rewards. Every year, 45 members of Superior's school patrol are picked to visit the Wisconsin Dells during the annual state School Patrol Congress. School coordinators hand out small treats to school patrol members and Kendall said they occasionally hold pizza parties or fun events like roller skating. They get daily feedback, too.

"Kids appreciate it, and adults do too because this is a busy area after school," said Julian Robbins, a fifth grader on the Northern Lights Safety Patrol.

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"Most people say thank you and when we ask them to walk their bikes, they walk their bikes," MacKenzie said. She's also gotten to meet more of her fellow students while on patrol.

Safety patrol is a longstanding tradition in Superior.

"My daughter was a crossing guard when she was in fourth grade and she's on her third year of college," said Sharon Gorsuch, Northern Lights Safety Patrol coordinator.

She encouraged drivers to be aware of intersections and respect the students with the orange flags.

"You'd be surprised how many people don't stop or they just roll through," Gorsuch said.

MacKenzie passed along her own message to drivers.

"Just to know that we care about the people who are crossing and to, like, actually make sure that they're watching the road so they don't accidentally hit one of the people crossing or us," she said.

The safety patrol program is funded by the Superior Police Department and local business donations. Last year, a Gofundme account was established for donations and Kendall said another will be set up this year.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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