Hagi Galvan leaps out of his mother’s car, grabs his neon orange safety patrol vest and flag, and walks briskly to his post at the corner of Vincent Avenue and 50th Street in Minneapolis.
And a brisk walk it is. It’s about 32 degrees and Hagi has forgotten his mittens. No time to fret. Hagi and about a dozen fellow students at Lake Harriet Community School fan out to three corners where they will devote the next 15 minutes to important, potentially lifesaving work.
Hagi, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, is in his second year as a member of his school’s safety patrol, a select group of upper class students charged with the safe crossing of kids, moms with strollers, joggers and dog-walkers during the bustling morning commute. Many students return to work the afternoon patrol.
Hagi won’t brag, but he’s quite a hero. In January, after a considerable snowfall, Hagi watched as a car quickly approached his four-way intersection with no sign of stopping as a third-grader stepped into the street. Hagi rushed into the street, grabbed the student by his backpack and pulled him back to the curb as the driver finally looked up and veered away. No one who witnessed the frightening event doubted that without Hagi’s quick work, the child would have been hit.
The child’s family, including his teary-eyed mother who had been waiting in her car honking frantically, thanked Hagi with two $25 gift cards and several movie theater-size boxes of candy.
He was named a “Lake Harriet Hero” by his school, and earned a Life Saving Award from AAA Minneapolis.
It’s all nice, but you know what Hagi really wants?
“I haven’t gotten the [car’s] license plate yet,” he said earlier this week. “I’m sorry I didn’t get it.”
That pragmatic approach doesn’t surprise Katie Bloomer, now a special education teacher at Field School, who formerly oversaw the Lake Harriet safety patrol.
“He’s very dedicated, very studious. If he wasn’t scheduled to work, he wanted to work. He’d ask, ‘Do you need me?’ He would work every morning and after school,” she said.
On a recent Monday morning at 9:30, Hagi takes his position, awaiting the call from the safety patrol leader.
“Alert! Flags out!” she calls out from across the street. Hagi steps out confidently as students cross. “Flags in!” the leader calls as Hagi steps back onto the curb, briefly putting his hands in his pockets.
“It’s not going to get warmer!” shouts Bloomer, who has returned to Lake Harriet for the morning to check in on her former charges and watch them work. Over and over, Hagi steps into the street.
At 15 degrees, the kids get hot chocolate, said Ryan Simonson, a special education teacher who took over the patrol from Bloomer.
“There’s incentive for everything,” he joked. “There has to be or they won’t show up.”
Regardless of the temperature, they get suckers once they’re finished with their morning shift. Simonson tries to get them to save the suckers for lunch, but you can guess how successful that is.
The student volunteers get an hour and a half of training to understand the weight of their work. They must be responsible, cooperative, respectful and helpful.
Patrollers learn about the perils of distracted drivers, too; they must wait for eye contact with drivers before stepping into the street. All wear safety vests and are taught to hold the flag at a 45-degree angle.
Hagi’s good with all that. Despite the sometimes grueling expectations — windchill, rain, snow, waking up early — he shows up on time from his home in Brooklyn Center.
Last year, he was voted safety patrol captain twice. He wore his captain’s badge “like a symbol of heroism,” said Bloomer, who was honored in January by AAA for her work supervising the Lake Harriet safety patrol.
“It’s kind of important,” said Hagi, who also likes math and Xbox and tire swings.
“But I learned the hard way to wear pants.”