Needless to say, it's a rare occasion when spontaneous applause breaks out inside the Memphis City Council committee room. But, then it's also not standard fare for council members to have the opportunity to lend attentive ears to the concerns of a trio of 9- and 10-year-old elementary students willing to talk about their greatest fear.
"That I might get run over. Because the crossing guard don't be there all the time," said the aptly named Honesty Owens, a Corning Elementary student.
Frayser's Corning Achievement Elementary is one of more than a dozen schools in Memphis where safety concerns pose a threat to the students and teachers. More than 100 students must walk back and forth from home to school along a busy thoroughfare without the benefit of sidewalks, speed bumps and a shared crossing guard.
"Many times there's no adults there to help supervise and cars are speeding past. We've actually had incidents where the police have had to come out and make sure cars are slowing down," said Corning Principal Jessica Jackson. "We've had several close calls where cars have really endangered our teachers and the students."
Volunteering to put themselves in harm's way are the members of the faculty at Corning. They literally go the "extra mile" by extending their day to personally accompany their students back home.
"I walk them home every single day from school," said teacher Jillian Spichiarich. "It's about a half mile and it's about a half hour extra. But, as a teacher at Corning Achievement Elementary School, I have made a commitment and so have my fellow colleagues and the dean of students."
A commitment to help was the reason the Corning's students and teachers told their harrowing stories to a governmental body not particularly known for keeping theirs. Nonetheless, a pledge, of sorts, was made to look into traffic improvements around the school.
"Safety is expensive," said Councilman Lee Harris. "But, safety is important. The current price tag is $650,000, which, I think is less than one percent - one tenth of one percent of our operating budgets."
"I'm going to talk to ya'll. Because ya'll believe in that kind of stuff," added Councilman Harold Collins. "You got to have the heart and the mind of a child to believe that things can be accomplished,"
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