It’s Make a Difference Monday, a day where we celebrate citizens making a difference in the lives of children and youth across Allegheny County. Throughout January, we’ll shine the spotlight on City of Pittsburgh crossing guards. We recently met several crossing guards when we commissioned a study that looked at ways to enhance safety measures and improve relationships between public safety officials and children and youth. The encounters reinforced our beliefs that crossing guards provide students with more than a hand to hold when crossing the street or a smiling face when heading to school. They keep kids safe, serve as mentors and impact attendance.
One woman works to ensure these fixtures in the community are deployed daily. City of Pittsburgh Crossing Guards Supervisor Elaine Alter works to cover as many corners as possible, despite the dwindling number of crossing guards on her staff. Sometimes Elaine even steps away from her office to guard intersections, returning to her roots. She began her career as a crossing guard almost 40 years ago. She recalls giving gloves to children on cold winter mornings to prevent frostbite and providing lunch money to kids to ensure they received a nutritious meal at school.
We asked her why she was interested in not only keeping kids safe but also forming friendships and taking on a mentoring role. Here’s what she told us.
You learn a lot about the kids, and you become a fixture in the community. The kids become your own, and you treat every child on the street no different from the way you would treat your own. Elaine Atler, crossing guards supervisor
Elaine went on to say she’s not alone. She says her staff naturally recognize when a child needs extra love, care and attention. We’ll highlight some of those crossing guards in the weeks to come.