Retirees start leadership program for Cincinnati elementary schools

CINCINNATI -- Fifth-grader Maia Freeman says a school program not only helps her control her anger; it allows her to help others too.

Freeman is in her second year of an in-school Student Safety Program. The initiative was started by four retired friends -- Allan Robinson, Alan Schneider, Barry Lucas and Steven Marshall -- because they say they wanted to make a difference for the smallest of Cincinnatians.

Lucas said the program’s start was simple. Soon after they had retired, they went to the Cincinnati Police Department and asked how they could help by volunteering in the community.

Their assignment: Help teach accountability and build self-confidence within Cincinnati schools. Kids in the Safety Patrol Program monitor the hallways and help younger students to class.

What started as a small retirement project has now spread to 21 schools across Cincinnati, from Frederick Douglass Elementary to North Avondale Montessori. 

Frederick Douglass was the first school to debut the initiative in 2014. Principal Jeff Hall said the program helps kids grow into leaders while building invaluable relationships with police officers. 

“Leadership, a sense of pride, and also—this is real big—it builds a relationship between the community, my students and the police department … the kids see them out, and they give them high fives, they wave and stuff,” Hall said. “It’s really building a strong relationship here in the Walnut Hills area.” 

The experience has been rewarding for Schneider, too. 

“Probably the funnest part about it is when these little second graders run up saying, ‘When can I be on the safety patrol? When can I be on the safety patrol,’” he said. 

Marshall said there’s nothing more fulfilling to him than helping the kids. 

“When I walk into these schools and these kids give me hugs and give me high fives, it just makes me feel like a million dollars,” Marshall said.

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