Don Roberts Jr. has been a volunteer crossing guard for years. He feels like it’s his civic duty to help Kodiak students make it to school safely. It doesn’t matter how dark, cold, or wet it is outside, he does his best to be at the corner of Birch Street and Mill Bay Road every morning school’s in session.
It’s been about 18 years since Don Roberts Jr. started as a volunteer crossing guard.
“I was just handed a sign and said that corner.”
Since then, the three-way stop at Mill Bay Road and Birch Street has been his post. Monday through Friday. No matter the weather, he’s there in the morning, waiting to ferry people across the street.
“More customers. Here we go…”
It’s around 7:30 am and it’s pitch black out. Roberts is wearing a neon yellow reflective jacket, holding a light-up stop sign and an illuminated baton. He’s hard to miss. Roberts stands patiently watching traffic and scanning for pedestrians.
Being a crossing guard means a lot to Roberts.
“It’s my social identity in this town and people recognize me and I have a value to the community.”
The intersection he monitors is busy. It’s near one of Kodiak’s elementary schools, its middle school, and high school. One of the city’s main business roads also runs through it.
So, when Roberts is there between 7:15 – 8:30 am, it’s a chaotic mixture of parents dropping off their kids at school and people going to work.
“I’m surprised there haven’t been more accidents here it’s kinda like a strange dance that people do, but they still manage to do, but they still manage to do it.”
Roberts tries to get into the minds of drivers pulling up in front of him. He knows there’s a lot of things that can distract them, which will affect if they can see someone crossing the street.
“Particularly in the morning people are tired they haven’t quite woken up yet and they’re distracted by planning out the day and what they’ve gotta do and what they’re going to be doing.”
He’s not only there to protect children, but drivers as well. Roberts doesn’t want anyone to have to deal with the consequences of hitting a kid.
Roberts: “Can you stay in between the lines. It’s safer for them.There you go.”
Child: “Thank you.”
Roberts: “You’re Welcome”
Roberts doesn’t really get to know the people he helps, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.
“To me, it’s like defending family. I don’t know what I would do if someone hit one of my kids.”
Even though Roberts has never seen someone get hit by a car as a crossing guard, he’d like to see some improvements be made to his intersection– specifically, measures to make students more visible to motorists.
“It’s sometimes impossible for drivers to see them.”
He says the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s superintendent told him the visibility issue is being looked into.
Working as a crossing guard has been Roberts’ main gig for almost two decades. The school district’s offered to pay him, but he wants to stay a volunteer. As he gets older Roberts has started to think about how he wants to spend the rest of his life. So, he’s decided to hang up his stop sign and vest in 2020.
Even though his time as a volunteer crossing guard will eventually come to an end, Roberts believes it’ll be his legacy.
“You know they don’t put your bank account balance on your gravestone. You know when I die they’ll remember me for this.”
For now, though, Roberts is happy to keep shepherding school kids across the street safely.