For three years, Danielle Kamis has braved nasty weather, impatient drivers and dangerous road conditions to help make Walnut Hills Elementary a safer place.
Kamis is one of the school's six crossing guards, dedicated community members who brave heavy traffic and aggressive drivers to make sure every single student gets to and from school safely. Kamis is the only crossing guard who works both the morning and afternoon shift, and her inspiration for the work is tied directly to the students who show up for classes every day.
"I like it, because I get to know the kids and the families. It's how I'm active in the school," said Kamis, who is also the mother of a first-grader and a fourth-grader at the school. "I try to keep the kids safe, and I try to tell every single student 'Good morning,' 'Happy whatever-day-it-is,' and I try to wake them up out of their morning grouchiness."
Kamis is one of dozens of school crossing guards who have impressed Arapahoe County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Edson over his years as a Student Resource Officer in Cherry Creek Schools and other county districts. Edson, who's been working in local schools as an SRO for six years, has long recognized the difficult work that these dedicated community members do on a daily basis – they show up to do their work no matter the weather, they keep harried and impatient drivers in check and they play a role that combines both safety and enforcement.
Edson wanted to find a way to honor all of this hard work and dedication, and he went all the way to the Colorado Governor's Office to do it. He petitioned the office to create a state proclamation honoring crossing guards across Colorado, and his efforts paid off.
On April 25, Edson joined other Arapahoe County Sheriff officers at Walnut Hills to formally celebrate the statewide proclamation declaring "Crossing Guard Appreciation Day." Flanked by Walnut Hills' crew of crossing guards, Edson explained that his ultimate goal is to make the last Wednesday in April an annual celebration of their work.
"We know how dangerous this work can be," Edson said. "There are thousands of people just like yourself who sign up to do it. We rely on you."
Declaring an official state holiday would necessitate action from the Colorado Legislature, but Edson sees the proclamation as an important first step in realizing that goal. Formally acknowledging the declaration at Walnut Hills was an appropriate choice, Edson said, as the school is the center of busy traffic conditions.
"It was an easy choice," Edson said. "Walnut Hills has recognizably the highest number of crossing guards working morning and afternoon, being right on the corner with three crosswalks," he said, adding that recent construction on Arapahoe Road has increased the amount of traffic in the neighborhood. "These crossing guards are risking their lives to get our kids safely across the street."
While crossing guards can always report the license plate numbers of careless drivers to law enforcement, it doesn't make the work any easier. For Kamis, however, braving the weather, the early hours and her share of aggressive drivers has a simple reward.
"We just want the kids to be safe," she said. "It's delightful to be recognized like this."