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Nico Wells is a crossing guard in Oakland.

Two Oakland school crossing guards share their stories

on September 11, 2014

Julie Clyburn blows her metal whistle and raises a stop sign affixed to a white plastic pole. She steps halfway onto Shattuck Avenue at 61st Street and gestures for a young boy to cross the road to Sankofa Academy, a public elementary and junior high school. The kids are taller now after their summer break, and watching the kids grow up is something Clyburn says she loves about her job. She attends graduation every year and cries “right along with the parents.”

Clyburn is one of Oakland’s 49 crossing guards. In addition to helping kids, this job is meant to increase safety in a city where pedestrians—young and old—are at risk of getting hit by speeding vehicles and texting drivers. According to an interactive mapping system maintained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, there was one pedestrian death and 22 injuries from collisions with motor vehicles within a half-mile of Sankofa between 2010 and 2012.

While the mission of a school crossing guard is to assist young students heading to school, Oakland crossing guards look out for the elderly, too. Crossing guard Minnie Jones, herself a senior at 72, is stationed at San Pablo Avenue and Brockhurst Street, where she regularly helps students going to Hoover Elementary School and seniors from a nearby housing facility.

Oakland’s crossing guards are employed and managed by the police department. The city determines where crossing guards are placed, following guidance from the state of California, which suggests guards should be assigned to intersections where at least 40 school pedestrians will cross in a span of two hours. They work four hours each school day throughout the academic year, and can choose to work in the off-season, manning locations where summer school is in session.

Click the audio links that accompany this story to hear from a few of these orange-clad crossing guards.

Click to hear from crossing guard Minnie Jones.
Click to hear from crossing guard Julie Clyburn.


  1. Bill Zeller on September 11, 2014 at 10:17 am

    I was fascinated to learn more about these unsung heroes who safeguard our community’s children. Listening to their voices (and song) afforded a real glimpse into the big-hearted nature of two such women. This is the type of storytelling I’d like to see more often.

  2. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco on September 12, 2014 at 4:46 am

    […] Two Oakland Crossing Guards Share Experiences of Protecting Kids Walking to School (Oakland North) […]

  3. Harvey on September 13, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Sweet, collecting Social Security, a pension from the Post Office, and a part time job with OPD. How are these persons paid?

  4. Laura Klivans on October 1, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Oakland North thanks Walk Oakland Bike Oakland ( for their assistance in background research for this story. As WOBO Policy Committee Chair Jonathan Bair says, “Crossing guards, red-light cameras, lower speed limits, and streetscape improvements like sidewalk bulb-outs are all ways that Oakland can improve safety for everyone on foot.” Thank you for your hard work making our streets safer.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

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