April 5, 2014 in City

Shawn Vestal: Sixth-grader’s tweets as crossing guard are all about safety

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Allarae Prigan, a sixth-grade crossing guard at Audubon Elementary School, helps third-grader Andrew Beavers cross the street safely after school on Wednesday. Prigan is among 10 students selected to be inducted into the AAA School Safety Patrol Hall of Fame.
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Allarae Prigan has forgotten her whistle.

But that doesn’t mean she’s going to shirk. Prigan is on crossing-guard duty at Audubon Elementary School, which calls for whistle, or whistle-like, notifications when she enters the crosswalk, when it’s safe for others to cross, and when she is leaving the crosswalk.

So she improvises.

“Tweet,” she says, stepping into the crosswalk at Cannon and Jackson. “Tweet tweet.” Two students and a parent cross. “Tweet,” she says again, as she retakes her post on the curb.

Prigan brings an exceptional level of attention and responsibility to her post as a crossing guard – and, one suspects, to everything she does. The 11-year-old is a sixth-grader at Audubon, and she’s been a crossing guard since fourth grade – the first chance she got. This year she was named by AAA as one of the 10 Washington students to be honored for their work in getting kids safely across the streets to and from school. Prigan was the only Spokane student named to the AAA School Safety Patrol Hall of Fame; they’ll be honored at a Seattle Mariners game May 9.

It’s an exciting moment for Prigan, who likes sports and who exhibits an unusual level of responsibility and maturity in many ways. It is also a pleasant reminder of the many humble but crucial contributions people make to their schools – from teachers to parents to attendance secretaries to crossing guards – and to the huge coordination of small tasks involved in every school day.

Getting students safely across the streets, into and out of school, is just one of those. About 30 students volunteer to be crossing guards at Audubon, said Mindy Holland, attendance secretary and safety patrol adviser at the school.

If that number holds at other elementary schools, it means more than 1,000 students in the Spokane school district step up for this duty. It is a small, good thing, and sometimes we see the smallness more than the goodness.

Allarae is one of those kids who inspires optimism about the future – a corrective jolt to kids-these-days grousing. She’s good at school and she likes it. She can’t decide whether math or science or reading is her favorite subject. She likes reading novels, especially “The Hunger Games.” She’s on a swim team, competing in the freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and individual medley.

“You only get to pick four events,” she explained.

She’s on the student council and volunteers in other ways around the school. Not only does she have a career in mind, but she’s had it in mind for a while now.

“Ever since I was in second grade I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist,” she said.

Holland nominated Allarae for the AAA award, because she’s reliable and responsible, helps the other guards and knows the rules. Holland and Allarae each had to answer essay questions for the award about traffic safety and pedestrian rules.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get it,” Allarae said.

Several weeks later, though, as she was helping her kindergarten “reading buddy” in the library, Holland came in and told her she’d won.

Earlier this week, as she carried out her shift at Cannon and Jackson, she was surrounded by the chaos of the end of the school day: kids heading for buses, teachers and volunteers riding herd, students running and shouting on the playground. Allarae, in neon yellow vest and carrying her neon orange and yellow sign, waited quietly to help students and parents cross. At one point, she helped a student who’d missed his bus.

All told, the shift lasts no more than 10 minutes. When it’s over and she’s leaving, most everyone has dispersed, but the moment calls for a three-note whistle and so the hall-of-fame crossing guard does her duty: “Tweet tweet tweet.”

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 4595431 or shawnv@spokesman.com. Follow him on twitter at @vestal13.

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