Leading by Example- Green Valley Safety Officer Program
By Valerie K.
Earlier this year, we had a chance to learn more about the Safety Officer program at our Green Valley center from LaTunya Clark, Teacher, and Amanda Izaguirre, Site Supervisor. The safety officers are a group of school age children who have been selected as health and safety leaders at their center. These students have learned how to read daily and monthly environmental safety checklists. With teacher assistance, the safety officers conduct health and safety visits in each classrooms and report back to the site supervisor during safety meetings. In addition to assisting teachers, the opportunity for leadership has also provided accountability and has helped students with reading and comprehensive skills, as well as communications skills.
It started off by establishing the need for a leadership program, which initially began to ensure Preschoolers and Kindergartners had the things that they needed throughout each day. “We wanted to teach them life skills…,” says Clark. They started formulating the program with input from the children, by asking them what they’d like to be doing.
“Ms. Mandy had the idea for a smaller group versus a larger group, but also allowing them to have more responsibilities such as safety checks in the building,” says Clark.
The program was initially launched before summer 2019, right before the end of school year and was pushed and promoted during summer, though the concept was brought up during the summer of 2018. The majority of children that participate are around 9 and 10, but can participate as long as they are in the program.
During last summer, four of the children were picked to assist with Camp Jr. K, a program offered to a select group of preschoolers that are 5 years old and registered to go to kindergarten in the next school year. This group separates from preschool and has a camp like experience before starting kindergarten that includes summer activities and local field trips.
“There was an accident where a teacher had gotten injured and everyone had handled it so well. The Health and Safety Officers stood with the children and waited and jumped in to do everything that was asked of them so other teachers could help with the emergency. It really benefits the teachers and helps their job run smoothly.”
The students would help with day–to–day activities like; making lunches, performing health and safety checks and providing lists of things needed for the classrooms to the center staff. During the school year, they help with monthly fire drills, as well as work with toddler and preschool classrooms to help guide the children outside. Over time these daily responsibilities improved their confidence, as well as language, leadership and social skills. The kids even made their own Health and Safety t-shirts and badges!
The Safety Officers are in place year-round and new children have an opportunity to join in after the summer. In order to join the program, students must have demonstrated skills in leadership as well as respect to each other and staff. These are things we emphasize that are crucial to the workforce. Center staff also want students joining the program to be doing well in school, especially since they’re leading by example when it comes to the younger children. With COVID-19, many children are absent due to quarantine and as a result, other children have really stepped up.
“The children really have fun with the job, and we love to see them taking it seriously as they work on team building. They recognize the importance of safety and go the extra mile to ensure procedures are being followed even if it’s something as simple as pointing out something that does not belong on the counter.”
In being part of this program, students are provided the readiness to join the Avid program, which is an accelerated program for students to participate in college prep classes to enhance their chances of college readiness. Students must interview during middle and high school. They are chosen on interview, interest and recommendations. Students who are in the health and Safety program at Green Valley are encouraged to participate. They are coached by Green Valley staff if they decide to apply.
Seeing the maturity and confidence that the children have built throughout the year is truly rewarding. The children take ownership of their responsibilities as Safety Officers.
The safety officer program at Green Valley CDC is just one of the many examples of how we build life-skills with our students. This program not only offers them a foundation of leadership and community building, but also builds on their reading and writing skills along the way. When the next school year approaches, regional leaders are looking at expanding this program to other centers in the Oxnard area.