EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Proud parents and other family members gathered at the Dr. Joyanne D. Miller School on Friday, Oct. 7 to watch their favorite students as they were inducted into the 2016-2017 Safety Patrol, a hand-selected group of fifth-graders who are charged with reminding their peers of school safety rules.
Part of AAA's long-standing national School Safety Patrol Program, Miller School’s patrol was created in 2013 when Principal Latifah Potter was promoted to the post.
The nationwide program started in 1920 and has famous alumni including U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, five current and former Supreme Court justices, five Olympic gold medalists and 21 astronauts. More than 600,000 children throughout the country participate in similar programs in their schools. There are 93,000 patrols alone in the mid-Atlantic area, according to AAA.
The safeties must pledge to report for duty on time, perform duties faithfully, obey teachers and officers of the patrol, report dangerous student practices and strive to earn the respect of fellow students. Potter said the students, who must be recommended by fourth-grade teachers, are a diverse group representing every spectrum of the school’s student body.
“I'm so excited this program continues to grow every year,” Potter said. In its first year, the patrol was made up of 53 members. This year there are 65 among the ranks. “Being selected for the patrol is definitely a big deal.”
Egg Harbor Township Police Department Sgt. Steve Slusarksi was on hand at the ceremony to help welcome the safeties. He handed out their badges and Sam Browne belts before they took the oath of office.
Slusarski told the students that the safety program is steeped in history and they should feel proud to be selected.
“You represent the very best of our school and the community. You’re in a leadership role and in a position to be a positive role model,” he said.
It’s an honor is not missed on the members.
Safety Lawson McIntosh said he looked up to the safeties when he was in fourth grade last year.
“It is an awesome experience and I love the feeling that the fourth graders now look up to me. It feels really good to think about that,” he said.
Captain Payton Colbert said it’s almost like a “dream come true.”
“You can help out,” she said. “It’s like being a mini-teacher.”
The safeties are stationed either in a hallway, at the cafeteria or near a doorway to help remind their peers of school safety rules, such as no running or shouting in the hallways.
For instance, Safety Nathan Harte said sometimes students need to stop to tie their shoes, and safeties can be there to make sure they don’t get stepped on by the other students who are passing by.
The teachers are in place to reinforce the message the safeties are sharing with the students, as needed.
Lt. Addie Parker said each situation is different.
“If students say no and keep running, that can be hard to deal with because they don’t listen to you. So we first tell the students, then we tell a teacher.”
Safety Mariah Nell said reminding peers of the rules can be a little difficult at times.
“I worry about that sometimes. You may tell them to stop running and then you hear them talking about the patrol and make fun of it,” she said.
But, Nell said the program’s coordinator, teacher Susan Slusarksi, covered some of these topics with the patrol during the training session.
No matter the stresses of the job, it is worth it in the end, the students said.
“We get to help people with problems,” Parker said.
“It’s really good experience and cool privilege, but it’s also about keeping the school safe. What’s better than having fun and keeping people safe at the same time?” McIntosh said.