SOUIX FALLS, S.D. – Crossing the street alone is no fun for a child, but the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office came up with a way to incorporate safety and community engagement just outside of school.
“At beginning of the spring, we started a crosswalk program here in Hartford at West Central Schools. There was a need of just very congested area, especially during drop off and pickup times, and we had a few close call incidents with pedestrians crossing and whatnot….and so I talked to a couple of school resource officers,” explains deputy Damian Kardas. “They’re like, yeah, we do a crosswalk program and they kind of helped me out of how to kind of get that started.”
Deputies reached out to the nearby middle school for some help.
“Middle schoolers will walk from the middle school over to elementary school, which is about two blocks, and they will help elementary kids cross the crosswalks. Like, they don’t stop traffic or anything like that. They’re just there to ensure like, all right, you may enter and/or you may go through. So huge success so far,” says deputy Kardas.
He adds that it’s a great way to develop the community service skills of the middle schoolers.
“Really awesome seeing volunteers because now the day and age of volunteering is kind of like dwindling, and seeing middle school kids kind of stepping up and willing to volunteer their time to ensure safety is pretty awesome to see.”
Deputy Kardas adds that middle school is a great age to offer leadership opportunities to students.
“Personally, like, leadership wasn’t taught to me or even became a forethought until after high school, and if there’s someone down the road to kind of talk about leadership or to mentor or to get that started, I think it just really brings good self-esteem to middle schoolers, knowing that they’re making a difference in their community. And also they get that, you know, one-on-one with other school leaders or public officials to kind of help them out and just being a mentor for them.”
Lending a helping hand isn’t limited to the schools, the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office Community Engagement Committee also provides community outreach.
“We all get in this job wanting to help people, and how can we do that?” Kardas asks. “We have ideas. Let’s get those ideas on pen and paper.”
The goal of the Community Engagement Committee? Deputy Kardas says it’s “to foster and also develop new relationships in our community and really serve our community the best that we can.”