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Fifth-grader recognized as Outstanding Safety Patroller of the Year by AAA

Fifth-grader Dylan Walker doesn't plan on a career in law enforcement when he grows up, but that doesn't mean his recognition as Outstanding School Safety Patroller of the Year means any less to him.

The award, from AAA Mid-Atlantic's Foundation for Safety and Education, which Walker won following a nomination from safety patrol adviser Teresa Greenberg, recognizes individuals' leadership, dependability and academics.

Dylan, the only student from Carroll County recognized, attended an award luncheon for recipients, where he received a plaque, T-shirt and $100 Visa gift card.

The AAA school safety program, created in 1920, safeguards millions of students throughout the country. Today, more than 600,000 children are safety patrollers nationwide, and in the mid-Atlantic region alone, there are more than 93,000 patrols, according to AAA's website.

These days, Dylan has his eye on becoming a scientist or a professional baseball player. Still, the Spring Garden Elementary School student said the leadership experience and confidence that the position gave him over the course of the year will prepare him for any career path.

"Whether you're a captain or a lieutenant, you're a leader when you're a safety," Dylan said, adding that he especially enjoyed working with younger kids in his tenure.

Dylan was stationed at a kindergarten post for the beginning portion of the year, building relationships with many of the students, before volunteering to switch to an outdoor position when a fellow student was looking for a swap.

It was his unique ability to connect with kindergartners that prompted Teresa Greenberg to nominate him to AAA Mid-Atlantic this year.

"He really cared enough to get to know the little ones, enough to ask questions about specific things and establish relationships with them," Greenberg said, adding that when Dylan sees them outside now, he high-fives them and greets them by name. "That's what it's all about: establishing you're a leader by example. He shows kids what to do through what he does and that's what makes him exceptional."

On Halloween, Dylan wore an "'80s lawyer" costume to the delight of the kindergarten students — "They were all like, 'Wow, nice hat!'" he said.

And, when the time came for someone to step up to trade posts with another safety, Walker did so without reservation.

"It was a rough winter, it was really cold most days," said Greenberg, an art teacher at Spring Garden. "If he switched for that outside post, he knew he was going to be very, very cold. It didn't phase him, though. He did it happily because he knew she needed help."

Though Dylan retired his safety belt at the end of the school year, ready to move on to sixth grade, he left some work behind for the upcoming fifth-graders.

Over the course of the year, he worked with students who goofed around, got out of line or threw their book bags on bus seats, he said.

"I've been helping kids try to be better, teaching them the importance of following the rules and listening," Dylan said. "Sometimes it's easier than others, but it's important. Next year's safeties will still have some work to do."

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