Crossing Into their Full Potential: How Roosevelt Crossing Guard Judy Creates Positive Connections with Kids
October 9, 2019 9:00 AM
by Erin Taylor
Miss Judy is one popular person at Roosevelt Elementary.
She’s a school aide and crossing guard, and we had the privilege of spending time with her early one afternoon as the first round of students released from school—kindergarteners and pre-kindergarteners—began pouring out of the gates. Judy, wearing a bright yellow vest and carrying a stop sign, would step out onto Montana Avenue, bringing the whirr of traffic to a stop before ferrying children and caregivers across with hawk-like vigilance.
Judy is meeting a basic need of the community: ensuring students’ safety in high-traffic areas. It’s a role that falls under the Traffic Services section of the Santa Monica Police Department and its importance cannot be overstated. After all, one-third of Santa Monica students walk to school every day.
But she’s also offering something that goes above and beyond that: true human connection. As crossing guard supervisor, Rick Luna said, “Judy is a true “superstar” at Roosevelt” and is “one of the most caring persons I have met during my tenure at SMPD,” —a quality we got to see in action.
Before shuttling anyone across, she’d greet the caregiver and bend down to engage the child: “How was school? Are you ready for the three-day weekend? See you Tuesday!” The warmth Judy radiates is genuine and it was remarkable to watch how children responded to it, delighted by her attentiveness.
In between crossings, a small group of slightly older kids on recess called out to her repeatedly from the school yard, “Miss Judy! Miss Judy! Someone’s coming!” Then they’d point to people approaching the intersection, alerting Judy of her much-needed services. They wanted to get in on the responsibility—and fun—of spending time with Judy and helping to run the crosswalk, even if from the other side of the school fence.
And then later in the afternoon, children emerging from a frozen yogurt shop on the other side of Montana Avenue paused on the sidewalk and shouted for Miss Judy, waving with enthusiastic abandon in her direction, looking for one last interaction before heading home.
Miss Judy seemed used to it all and said that the connections she forges with these children from Pre-K through 5th grade are long-lasting, with many students stopping by years later to pay her a visit.
Positive relationships help kids reach their full potential
Judy crosses approximately 200 students each day, and she is the first person from school those kids encounter each morning before launching into their studies. As Judy says, “I’m here to put a smile on everyone’s faces and start the day off right.”
Now, that first encounter really does count. It doesn’t just set the tone for the day at hand, it also sets the tone for big picture school readiness.
“When considered within the context of a child’s environment of relationships, the concept of school readiness is not exclusively a matter of fostering literacy and number skills. It must also include the capacity to form and sustain positive relationships with teachers, children, and other adults”.
Judy falls into that vague “other adults” category—easy to skim past in academic writing, but vitally important in the real world. The value of fostering positive connections with adults outside the home cannot be underestimated. It helps create a wider network of emotional and behavioral support that prepares a child to reach full potential at school and in life.
Cradle to Career: How Santa Monica is Supporting Our Youth
Creating a city in which everyone can learn and thrive is a key goal of Santa Monica. One way we’re doing that is by supporting youth at all stages of development through Cradle to Career—a collective impact initiative that works to ensure children are living and learning in environments that are strong, safe, and supportive. We wanted to highlight Judy’s work because she characterizes those exact values. And although that crosswalk is just a small corner of the world, the environment Judy cultivates there makes a big difference that will stick with those students for a lifetime.
Of course, we can’t have a Judy on every corner, but there are numerous programs available in Santa Monica to help support children and caregivers. Check out Cradle to Career to find services for you and the children in your life, or find out what you can do to get involved and help.
And keep in mind: it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep Santa Monica’s roads safe. Be sure to slow down in school zones, and before crossing a street, always remember: Stop, Look, Wave.
For more information on what the City is doing to strengthen our community and keep us all safe, be sure to visit weare.santamonica.gov.