ST. LOUIS – As promised, area men were present at school bus stops to form a safety net for St. Louis Public Schools students during their first week back.
“It’s good to see that somebody cares enough to make sure that I make it home okay – that isn’t your parent,” said Karon Mitchell after unboarding at his school bus stop in the Walnut Park West neighborhood where about four men waited.
“Too many of them are being hurt and killed by unnecessary violence, so if I can be a part them being safe, it makes me feel good,” said John Paynes.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Paynes’ pastor, Kevin Finch, who was also manning bus stops.
“It’s our responsibility, because some of our kids can’t step up for themselves, so we have to,” Finch said.
Capt. Misty Dobynes, commander of administration for the St. Louis Public Schools safety and security department, came up with the idea. It’s called the St. Louis Neighborhood Net. She said the initiative was rolling out quite well.
Lt. Kestner Miller, commander of field operations, backed her summary.
“It’s been smooth,” he said, standing at the Walnut Park West neighborhood stop greeting students.
“It’s a really good vibe this year with the kids,” Miller said, adding that he wished the Net could span the school year.
That would depend of the availability of male volunteers.
Parent Ebony Miller said she too wished it could be year-long and would even like to volunteer.
“I was surprised to see them,” Miller said of the men near her two sons’ bus stops in the Fairgrounds neighborhood. “I was, like, ‘Ain’t nobody going to be out here but us women.’ But men are out here.”
She then thanked them for their presence.
Angel Allen, who volunteers with Better Family Life, a partner of the initiative, said she was happy to see the men out at the stops.
“It was a good feeling to pull up and see all of them,” Allen said. “We need to see our men out here.”
Darius Bass and Troi Chambers manned the stop in the Fairgrounds neighborhood. They said they observed some broken grass and yard debris on one of the sidewalks. They will report it to the school, something volunteers are asked to do. In turn, the school will alert the city, so that such debris can be removed.
Bass and Chambers said they had heard about the Net on the radio and decided to volunteer when they learned how vulnerable some of the students and their mothers could can be.
Bass, 22, said he and Chambers wanted to separate themselves from others doing bad things.
Chambers agreed. “We’re stepping out in a different direction, and this a major opportunity to get involved and give back to our community and put parents at ease.”
“Boys let life happen to them, but men step up and make life happen,” Bass said.