Simple message: Look At Me – I’m Here
by Ed Wendell
Apr 30, 2018 | 463 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Did you know that children under the age of 14 are most likely to be injured or killed due to reckless driving and speeding vehicles?

With that in mind, the students of PS 97 have a very simple message to anyone who drives on the streets of Woodhaven: Look At Me – I’m Here.

Safety banners designed by the students and created in partnership with the Department of Transportation and artists from Groundswell NYC have been placed at several locations around the neighborhood to reinforce this important message.

In a ceremony outside of the school’s 85th Street entrance last week, the colorful banner was unveiled to the students of Class 5-401, who took part in the program, which is part of Vision Zero.

DOT’s Safety Educator Steve Waters found a receptive group in the students from PS 97, but he also took the time to listen to what they had to say.

“It was a great educational experience for the students, as well as myself,” Waters said. “I learned about this community. I learned that the commercial traffic issue was a big deal with the students. They wanted to get a nice message to the drivers to be aware of pedestrians.”

Mason Sills, a teaching artist from Groundswell NYC, praised the students for their creativity. “You are all super, super creative,” Sills told Class 5-401.

DOT’s Special Programs Manager Cynthia Sweeney had high praise for the students and for the late Maria Thomson, who helped arrange for PS 97’s participation in the program.

“She would have been very happy with the results,” Sweeney said.

Principal Marilyn Custodio echoed Sweeney’s comments, speaking about the long relationship between Thomson and PS 97. The gathering observed a moment of silence for Thomson, who passed away in January.

“We thank her,” Custodio said. “We thank her for always thinking of PS 97. She will always be remembered.”

Maureen Bermingham of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation was there on behalf of Thomson and presented certificates of appreciation.

About the banner, Custodio could not be more impressed.

“This highlights how they feel,” she said. “This is going to show off your special talents.”

She also credited PS 97s Parent Coordinator Amelia Joseph and Cynthia Buynak, the art teacher of Class 5-401 for helping guide the project to a successful completion.

But ultimately, all the credit goes to the wonderful hearts and minds of the students of PS 97 who have created a simple message that all drivers should pay close attention to.

We see an awful lot of reckless behavior from drivers on our city streets. We see reckless behavior of drivers in cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses. And I wish every single driver of these vehicles could have been at this ceremony to see the looks on the faces of the kids as their safety banner was unveiled.

Their message – “Look At Me – I’m Here” – is a great combination of simplicity and gravity. Simple, because it seems like such an obvious point to make to drivers. Keep your eyes open for pedestrians. Be very aware than many pedestrians are children and, naturally, quite small.

And the message carries tremendous gravity because so many drivers seem unaware of this very simple point and operate their vehicles as if pedestrians do not exist. As if they’re not there.

These banners designed by the students of PS 97 and Class 5-401 have been hung at various spots around the community, to remind drivers that young pedestrians do exist and that they have the same right to safe passage that everyone else has.

I was fortunate enough to go to PS 97 as a young student. It was only for kindergarten, but it was enough that I always felt a connection with my old school. I always felt proud of the students that went there.

But I was never so proud as I was last week when I saw the great talents of the students on display, crafting a beautiful and important message that I hope everyone who drives through Woodhaven will take to heart.

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