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The City Journals

Daybreak Elementary Crossing Guards Give Smiles to Start the Day

Oct 04, 2016 04:49PM ● By Julie Slama

Daybreak Elementary crossing guard Vickie Hicks has been giving students a smile and a friendly “good morning” for the past 10 years, as long as the school has been open. (Julie Slama/My City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In the 10 years since Daybreak Elementary opened, Vickie Hicks has been at the crosswalk in front of school ensuring the safety of students both before and after school in record heat to blistering cold and inversion.

Hicks fell into the job when her daughter, Mindy Lewis, decided to apply for a crossing guard job. She went along to watch her granddaughter during the interview, and when her daughter finished, she told her mother to apply as well. Several crossing jobs and cities later, Hicks found her home at Daybreak.

However for her, it’s not just a job, it’s a belief Hicks can make a difference in the South Jordan community.

“I wish the kids good morning and to have a great day,” she said. “Everyone deserves a simple smile and wish, and if I can give that to the kids, no matter how their day at home might have begun, I can help them start a new day.”

Hicks isn’t alone in her belief. At the crossing in back of the school, her husband, Don, joined the staff about six years ago, after doing line work at substations. Their daughter is close by, crossing at 2700 West and 11400 South.  And joining the family, is their 3-year-old trained therapy dog, Buster, dressed up in his own crossing guard vest.

“You can have a crappy, nothing day where it seems nothing matters, but a little smile in the morning can set people back on the right track,” Don Hicks said. “I tell them, ‘Hey, the worst part of the day is over — you’re already up,’ and it gets a smile every time. I like to heckle the teachers as they arrive or give a thumbs up to small children. I get to know the parents, and when I get a ‘good morning’ with a smile and dimples, that just makes my morning.”

Even he was all smiles when a 4-year-old, who had just helped his mother drop off a sibling at school, stuck a homemade stop sign out the car window that read, “Good Morning, Crossing Guard.”

“The children brighten our day as well,” Vickie Hicks said, saying at home, they have a box of mementos and small gifts, such as a wooden angel ornament, others have brought them. “I’ve received hand warmers and lotion and some really sweet cards. It’s their appreciation that mean a lot.”

Teacher Leilani Brecht had some students, who were on safety patrol, bring hot chocolate and doughnuts to the crossing guards last winter on a particularly cold day.

“It’s amazing to see the impact that a simple greeting with a smile brings our students and the community every morning,” she said. “Every day is a fresh start, and they come with smiling faces and wish everyone a great day. They believe they are our first interaction with the school and go beyond their duties of making sure our Daybreak students are safe.”

Brecht said that they don’t just limit their interactions with students.

“They get to know other people in the community and talk to them or smile and wave,” she said. If someone in our community can bring everyone together, it’s our own crossing guard. Even my own daughter, who is in college, refers to (Don Hicks) as ‘that happy man.’ There’s no way you can pass them without a smile coming across your face and starting your day by being happy.” 

Students in Brecht’s class can tell stories about how the couple passes out candy canes or suckers, jokes around, and gives them fun nicknames as they cross each school day.

Sixth-grader Audrey Hales said Don Hicks has fun with her sister, Kate, as they cross.

“She’ll keep her arms in her coat when it’s cold, and he’ll joke with her about it,” she said. “He gives us high-fives and has such a fun personality. He’s really energetic and smiling, and we all look for Buster there. Don started calling me ‘Audrey of the Four Valleys’ as a nickname; I don’t know why, but it makes me smile.”

Her classmate, Rachel Weber, moved to the area last February from out of state, and the transition was hard.

“I’d see Vickie in the morning, and every day, she’d wish me ‘good morning’ and say, ‘I’m doing awesome,’” Rachel said. “It helped me get through a hard time.”

Sixth-grader Whitney Mangum said that when she has babysat a 7-year-old Daybreak student, who crosses with Vickie, she always hears stories.

“The crossing guard knows her names and always seems to give her encouragement and a smile,” she said. “I know she has appreciated it and always talks about her. She even gave the crossing guard a small thing of lotion as a present.”

Sixth-grader Adrian Docen said after being on crutches, Don Hicks has asked how the foot is recovering.

“Just asking the questions, makes me smile because I know he cares,” Adrian said. “He always cares about people and makes sure we cross without being hurt. At the same time, Don never lets you cross without brightening your day. Sometimes he tells jokes; sometimes it’s just his happiness that makes me smile. My little 2-year-old brother loves him. He always smiles and says, ‘It’s the crossing guard!’”