By Monica Leifer
Gener Ake, a parent at Bahia Vista School, didn’t like what he saw when he would bring his children to school. The sight of irresponsible driving around Bahia Vista Elementary bothered him, but what really made him sweat was the sight of children crossing the street in dangerous ways. Then, Gener Ake decided to grab the bull by the horns: He became a volunteer crossing guard two years ago, and since then has always been on the lookout for other volunteers. Rain or shine, he works three shifts, every single day in front of his son’s school.
At first, Gener did not find much support from the school administration, but that did not deter him. Quite the contrary, Gener held tight onto his plan. He did not even have traffic cones, so he had to borrow them from the PE teacher every single day. Later, some parents donated a few. Fortunately the situation improved, and now he has found his best ally in new Bahia Vista Principal, Cecilia Perez.
“Gener always helps in any way he can, whether it be with directing traffic, school events, or PTA leadership meetings. We are so grateful for everything he does and to have him as a part of our school community,” says Sarah Gaidano, Family Advocate at Bahia Vista Elementary.
Gener is hopeful that the new Safe Routes to Schools program in Bahia Vista will succeed at changing the habit of driving to school to that of walking or biking. He hopes that with reduced the traffic around the school and organized walking school buses, the safety for children and adults will increase. For this reason, Gener has volunteered to serve as Safe Routes’ Team Leader at Bahia Vista.
But even with the cooperation of the school administration and SR2S, Gener still has his work cut out for him. Dealing with neighbors and fellow parents is not always easy. “I lose my volunteers constantly because of the rudeness and aggressiveness of parents who don’t want to follow the rules of the road,” says Gener, who at this point is again working alone. His last standing volunteer, a grandpa, had a blood sugar level drop when a parent insulted him. Gener feels particularly irritated when people park in illegal spots, blinkers on, and often leaving babies alone inside their cars.
The Mexican father of two would like to see more help from the PTA. “Their support would go a long way,” as well as some more assistance from the District, who recently hired a crossing guard to work in front of the main entrance of the school. However, he feels more crossing guards are needed around the neighborhood. “My favorite spot to plant myself is near Pickleweed Park. There is a curve where you can’t see the cars coming and many kids (and their parents) cross the street right there,” he says. That was the place where one person was run over by a car about a year ago.
Currently, Gener is working three shifts from Monday to Friday. For the first shift, he is out on the street from 7:45 a.m. until all the kids are safely inside the school building. The second shift starts at 1 p.m., when kindergarten is dismissed and then, he patiently waits around until 2:30 p.m. for the rest of the students to come out.
But helping people cross the street is just one of Gener’s tasks. He also tries to prevent neighbors from taking the teachers’ parking spots and parents from blocking access to the school with their vehicles.
“I do all of this for the children, they are my inspiration,” Gener concludes.