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What Does it Mean to be a Safe Routes Hero?

As Outreach Specialists for Safe Routes Utah we talk to students throughout the state about how to get to and from school safely through our “Beat the Street” assemblies. Kids geek-out about the interactive presentation as they’re introduced to fun characters and video game avatars that show them how to stay safe on the streets. They earn badges and rewards all along the way as they show off their “safety” brilliance like little Einsteins in a world of obstacles and distractions. 

The Safe Routes Hero badge is one of our favorites and one the 4th-6th graders really respond well to. We decided to find out how they defined being a hero and we loved their responses. Here are just a few:

“A hero is someone who saves another person from danger.”

“A hero is someone who knows they can help, especially when others feel they can’t.”

“A hero is somebody who saves the day, or they help people.” 

We often associate the word hero with iconic figures and fictional characters like Iron Man, Captain America, or Black Widow from the Avengers. We fully expected their responses to describe the power, strength, and intelligence these heroes use to overcome impossible odds and leave the bad guys scampering for the exit. But instead, they characterized what being a Safe Routes Hero is all about. It’s about helping and protecting others.

With a natural inclination to do good, most kids never hesitate to put their helmet on before riding, others will patiently wait at crosswalks until the crossing guard waves them forward, and still others hold the hands of their younger siblings or encourage their friends to put their phones or video games away before crossing the street. 

Most of these students have younger siblings or know younger kids that look up to them, so we make it a point to emphasize that their influence among their peers can make all the difference.

As students exit the auditorium they light up with insight and stories. Some shout out thank you’s and enthusiastic waves, others tell stories of how they always use the crosswalk, or always wear a helmet. They give out warm energetic hugs just because they can. They are little lampposts of light guiding others toward safety. If we slow down just enough, we’ll witness little heroes in the making enthusiastically watching over us.