Volunteers needed as Neighborhood Net seeks to expand bus stop safety program for the rest of the school year

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ST. LOUIS - Dozens of people showed up to a meeting to learn how they can help students feel safe at the bus stop. This comes after the success of the Neighborhood Net bus stop safety program during its first week and the plan to continue the program through the rest of the school year.

Volunteers, parents, and teachers shared stories Wednesday night (Aug. 21) about how the program has already made an impact on students. The program launched last week with the start of the St. Louis Public Schools fall semester.

Volunteer Jimmy Bryant said students and volunteers were nervous and unsure the first day, but the students quickly warmed up to the new faces at the bus stop. Bryant has become familiar with the students who catch the bus at the stop where he volunteers, and he has been able to assist with getting the students transportation to school when they miss the bus.

Linda Nichols, a local third-grade teacher, said she has already seen a positive change in her students.

"We've had children that come in (to class) that's afraid to walk or get on the bus to get to school, so to have someone to protect you or to comfort you at times, that's wonderful," Nichols said.

Aisha James walks her 10-year-old daughter to the bus stop each day. They both wondered who the men were standing in the rain at the bus stop on the first day of school.

James said she was introduced to the men on the second day of school and was touched that the volunteers, many of whom do not have children attending school, would go out of their way to look after the students.

"It just goes back to the old adage that 'It takes a village,' and to see that the Neighborhood Net is out there caring about our kids the same way that we are and having a presence is amazing," said James.

During the first week, 530 volunteers were recruited and screened. The volunteers monitor bus stops for suspicious activity and alert police in case of an emergency.

"Everyone knows that you can't have a policeman on every corner, but it's important that people realize that they can be there," said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden. "So, it's really an example of a neighborhood rising to the occasion to help keep people safe."

To keep the program going, they need more help. Volunteers may commit to shifts that work with their schedule. James Clark with Better Family Life encourages churches, organizations and other groups to sign up.

Volunteers must be at least 18-years-old and pass a background check. For more information, call Better Family Life at 314-381-8200 or visit the office at 5415 Page Avenue.

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