“It’s all about communication,” she said. “I speak, I smile, and I tell them to have a good day. And as they feel my positive vibe, they start to talk back.”
Tortisure is a Safe Passage worker – one of 1,300 adults who keep watchful eyes on CPS students as they travel to and from school. She has been working with Sherwood students for two years, and believes that a key component to keeping them safe is getting them to talk.
“The kids can be shy at first, but if I keep smiling at them and talking to them, they really open up,” she said. “As they get to know me, they start calling me by name, introducing me to their parents, and thinking of me as someone they can trust.”
For Tortisure, establishing that trust is crucial, because only then will students feel comfortable telling her if they are experiencing any problems on the way to or from school.
Since its inception in 2009, Safe Passage has supported CPS students by acting as an extra set of eyes on their routes to and from school and by proactively identifying safety risks. This month, the Chicago Board of Education approved the expansion of the Safe Passage Program, which will now include 133 CPS schools and 69,000 students.
“We are excited by the chance to build on our Safe Passage work with this generous funding,” said Jadine Chou, Chief of Safety and Security for CPS. “We look forward to partnering with parents, students and the community to take this program to the next level.”
This will include adding Safe Passage routes to 27 new schools and expanding the services along 93 existing routes, effectively tripling the size of the program since 2011.
“I know they feel safer having us there,” said Tortisure of her Sherwood students. “And I know it makes their parents feel better, knowing we are there to make sure the kids are safe coming and going. It’s an important job, and it’s a pleasure getting to know the children and their families.”
Read the full press release here.