When Caleb McClatchey signed up to be a safety patroller last year at Waterloo Elementary School in Columbia, he though the experience would be fun. He had no idea how much good he would do, or that he would be recognized for his efforts.
Last month, Caleb, 11, of Ellicott City, was awarded the 2013 Outstanding School Safety Patrol Award by AAA Mid-Atlantic. He was one of just 14 honored out of a pool of about 30,000 student patrollers in the state.
"It made me feel good," said Caleb. "A little proud, and a little embarrassed. All of the other kids in the program would have done the same thing, and they were all worthy of the award. It's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I was assigned a job and I did it."
Being in the right place at the right time meant standing in the rain one afternoon after Waterloo dismissed its students, waiting with a particularly rambunctious kindergartner for the student's late bus to arrive, according to the nomination form written by Waterloo physical education teacher Julie Morgan, who oversees the program.
"Part of Caleb's job is working one-on-one with a student who has difficulties standing still and not running away during dismissal," Morgan wrote. "One rainy afternoon, the student's bus had not arrived and the last call was made for safety patrollers to end their day. Despite the miserable conditions, Caleb waited patiently in line with the student, making sure he didn't wander off,."
The safety patrol program at Waterloo is open to fifth-graders, who are partnered with kindergartners in order to keep an eye on them.
"It's a good thing," Caleb said. "It grows relationships between kids and it keeps the younger kids safe. It's a lot of fun, and it helps the safety of the school, so it's a win-win situation."
Safety patrollers are also responsible for monitoring the sidewalks during dismissal, making sure there's no running or fighting among other students. Sometimes kids his own age don't really pay attention to the patrollers, Caleb said, but the younger students do, and that makes all the difference.
"They take you seriously, and the more you hang out with the kindergartners and watch out for them, they become your friends," he said.
Now a rising sixth-grader at Ellicott Mills Middle School, Caleb said he doesn't have plans to be a safety patroller again, but he does want to continue to help his community in any way he can. When he's older, he said, that might mean a job in government.
"I just want to help people," he said.
The Outstanding School Safety Patrol Award is given to students who exhibit superior leadership, responsibility and service. As part of the honor, the students each received a plaque and $100 Visa gift card from AAA Mid-Atlantic.
"(All of the patrollers) are valued students, serving as role models while protecting fellow classmates, teachers and others from traffic dangers, as well as other hazards through their daily efforts," Safety Services Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education Myra Wieman said in a news release.
Caleb's mother, Tami McClatchey, said she was proud of her son, and appreciated the opportunity the safety patrol program gave him.
"It's great because it does have the older and younger kids interacting and developing those relationships," she said. "He and all his friends were sad to see their assignments end with the school year."