Wearing a fluorescent vest and clutching a handheld “stop” sign, crossing guard Cherrie Medendorp makes sure West Godwin Elementary students like Sataya McBride walk safely across the intersection at 36th Street and Clyde Park Avenue in Wyoming.
Actually, the veteran crossing guard accomplishes even more than that, says the third-grader. “She gives me Smarties just for being good,” said Sataya, referring to the multi-colored candy. “She tells me to ‘have a good day’ and ‘see you tomorrow.’ She has a good personality and always gives me a smile, even when she has a bad day.”
Then, before returning to her classroom, Sataya adds “And she makes me feel safe.”
This is Medendorp’s 18th year of overseeing students’ safe walk to school at West Godwin, and all 18 of those years at the same intersection — with an average of 37,350 vehicles a day, according to a 2011 City of Wyoming report. She’s at her post a half-hour before and after the school day.
Safety Lessons and More
But safety isn’t all Medendorp cares about at that intersection. She makes it a point to learn the names of the students and also the parents who accompany their children to school.
She also works in a lesson in traffic-pedestrian safety when time allows. “I teach the students to ‘listen for ready’ and then listen for the word ‘walk,'” said Medendorp, who is one of three crossing guards in the Godwin district. “‘Ready’ is for them to pay attention and to focus on what’s going to happen next.'”
Medendorp said she was drawn to the crossing guard job after she was laid off from a former employer. She combed help-wanted ads, saw the crossing guard position and was drawn to it partly because her two children were district students at the time.
The two constants a crossing guard can count on is the variable weather conditions Michigan is famous for and busy, hurried traffic. “It gets a little cold in the winter, but I like standing outside and there’s ways to keep warm,” Medendorp said. “I layer up.”
She has never been injured in all her time as a crossing guard, but that’s not to say she hasn’t had some narrow escapes. “I have close calls with motorists probably about once a week,” Medendorp said.
“But what you consider a close call I would not anymore. I’ve never been hit, and I’m thankful for that. The most dangerous part of the job is when someone wants to turn left and they’re driving east facing the sun and cannot easily see. But that’s not all the time, just certain times of the year.”
West Godwin Principal Steve Minard said Medendorp “watches everything that goes on. She worries about all the kids. Her dedication is impressive. She’s always out there.”