When school is dismissed each day, Jacob Thomas straps on a reflective yellow belt and escorts his peers to the car rider line.
Jacob, 12, a sixth grader at Mountain Island Day School, is one of the school’s six safety patrollers. He is responsible for helping students find their classrooms, carry coats and lunch boxes and pack up backpacks at the end of the day, and then escorting students to their guardians.
“I just really love helping,” Jacob said. “I always try to keep doors open, walk kids to class and help them unpack.”
For that, and one other notable action, Jacob has been named North Carolina’s Safety Patroller of the Year. “I was on safety patrol duty when I found out (I won),” said Jacob. “I was shaking, I was so happy.”
He, along with the S.C. representative, was honored for his accomplishment at the Bobcats game April 19.
Each year, the AAA School Safety Patrol program asks advisers to nominate a safety patroller who displays leadership, safety skills, school involvement, citizenship or volunteerism, and to include any lifesaving acts performed while the patroller was on duty. The AAA driver education department then scores nominations and chooses a Safety Patroller of the Year from each state.
In Mountain Island safety patrol adviser Kyla Shoemaker’s nomination, she said, “Jacob is always on the lookout for making our school safer ... . He has been an excellent example for the younger students in our school as to how to be safe in and out of the building.”
To be a part of the safety patrol team, principal Trisha Amos said students must maintain good grades and attendance. “If you’re on safety patrol, you’re already an exceptional student,” she said.
Jacob starts his day early, arriving before other students so he can greet them as they come in. He knows each student (slightly more than 100) by name, according to Amos. “When you’re on safety patrol, you have to try to keep a smile on your face and keep a positive attitude,” Jacob said.
But Amos’ most memorable experience of Jacob helping involved a fire in the chapel a few days before Christmas.
Jacob was on his way to tutor second graders when he smelled smoke coming from the library. Three candles lit by an acolyte during chapel were not extinguished and a decorative wreath had caught fire.
“(Jacob) knew not to get the fire extinguisher on his own,” Amos said. “He came to get me, and adults were able to put out the fire.”
Amos said without Jacob, the school would have lost the library and recently purchased technology.
Jacob said it was just another day’s work.
“When I come in (to school), I have to be ready,” Jacob said.