Tustin officers escort kids to classes

By Rebecca D'Auria

The crisp early morning air wasn’t a bother to over 100 students who got a special escort to school on Oct. 10.

The Tustin Police Department partnered with Tustin Ranch Elementary School for annual Walk to School Day.

“It’s a great event,” Lt. Robert Wright from the Tustin Police Department said. “Once you see all the kids show up, the smile on their faces, and how much they enjoy it, we feed off that energy and that it makes it enjoyable for us.”

Baylee Fowler, 9, of Tustin, left, receives a card from Tustin Police Department volunteer Wendy Meyers during Walk to School Day at Tustin Ranch Elementary School in Tustin.
Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Over 20 Tustin police officers and volunteers divided into four teams to provide students with multiple walking routes.

“Any opportunity I get to work with kids and make a positive impact on them and let them see that we’re the good guys is nice,” Officer Michael Mcjunkin said.. “It shows them we’re here to help them.”

Signs lie in wait of the students’ arrival at Tustin Ranch Elementary School.
Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Walk to School Day is celebrated annually on the first Wednesday in October. Besides raising awareness about community health, this day also reinforces important pedestrian safety rules.

“Walk to school is really good, not just for kids, for parents too,” said parent Shannon Verma, who was walking her children to school. “I believe rather than doing it once a year we should probably do once a week because it is actually good for health.”

Students pose for pictures with members of the Tustin Police Department and school officials during Walk to School Day at Tustin Ranch Elementary School. From left (back row): Wendy Meyers, Tustin Police Department volunteer, Officer John Hedges, aTustin Police Department motor officer, and Tustin Ranch Elementary School Principal Kathi Denny. Front row (from left): Students Leila De Vera, 9, and Kyla Zarate, 5.
Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

In fact, a lot of participants agreed Walk to School Day should be practiced more than once a year.

“I wish we could all walk to school every single day instead of just one day,” Tustin Ranch Elementary Principal Kathi Denny said. “It’s a fantastic event.”

In between snapping selfies with families and students, officers passed out stickers and pencils. They also handed out raffle tickets to kids that participated in the walk.

Tustin Police Department officers and volunteers walk with students (Officer John Hedges rides along next to them) to Tustin Ranch Elementary School.
Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

“It was nice to get out and have all [my son’s] friends, teachers, and officers here. It’s fun,“ parent Adriana Miller said.

By the end of the morning, Walk to School Day aided in bringing all parts of the Tustin community together.

In addition to police department personnel, which included sworn officers, civilian staff, and department volunteers, representatives from the Tustin Kiwanis Club as well as school staff, parents, and Tustin Unified School Board member Jonathan Abelove also participated.

A student and Tustin police officer high-five on Walk to School Day at Tustin Ranch Elementary School.
Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

After the walk, officers handed out healthy snacks including apples, bananas, and granola bars, and gathered with the students for a safety assembly which concluded the walk.

“Walk to School helps tie our entire department together, not just the traffic unit, but the volunteer and outreach programs too,” Motor Officer John Hedges said.

“My goal for you guys is to get you to school safe and to get you home safe every single day,” Hedges said.

Students carry signs as they walk to school with Tustin Ranch Elementary Principal Kathi Denny on Oct. 10. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Fruits were available for students to have a healthy breakfast on Walk to School Day at Tustin Ranch Elementary School. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

A student hugs a Tustin police officer on Walk to School Day. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Tustin Ranch Elementary School students carry signs as they walk with police officers and community volunteers to their classes on Walk to School Day. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Tustin police officers and Tustin Ranch Elementary School students pose for a photo together on Walk to School Day in Tustin.  Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Tustin Ranch Elementary School is busy the morning of Walk to School Day on Oct. 10. The Tustin Police Department and community volunteers walked with the students to help raise awareness. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Students at Tustin Ranch Elementary School gather at the start of the school day after walking to school with Tustin Police Department officers and volunteers. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Tustin Police Officer John Hedges speaks to students ahead of the start of the school day on Walk to School Day in Tustin. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Tustin Ranch Elementary Principal Kathi Denny prepares to toss a ball to students on Walk to School Day, Oct. 10. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge

Tustin Ranch Elementary Principal Kathi Denny, center, Tustin police officers, and community volunteers toss balls in the air outside the campus on Walk to School Day. Photo by Janine Swiatkowski/Behind the Badge