As Lulu Ross and Mispillion Elementary students walk to school each morning the first face that many of them see is Jennifer Parnell, the crossing guard at Bridgeham Avenue. Finishing her seventh year last week, Parnell enjoys spending time with students as she ensures that they cross the street to school safely. Living just one block away from her post, Jennifer is directing pedestrians and vehicles in all conditions, including the days with single digit temperatures, rain, sleet and snow.
Originally from Beltsville, Maryland, Jennifer and her husband Mike moved to the town of Milford to escape the fast-paced life near Washington D.C. Looking to raise a family the couple wanted to raise their children in an area with “great schools and a homey feel.” In 2002 their daughter Skylar, who will be attending the Milford Central Academy next year as a sixth grader, was born.
Beginning her first year as a crossing guard in 2006, Parnell quickly began to realize that her job was more than just escorting students across the street before and after the school day. As students became familiar with her just days after she started, they began to show her test scores and talk to her about their day as they passed by. Being the first and last school official that some students interact with, Jennifer feels it is important to be there for safety, support and encouragement.
Among her favorite memories on the job includes an anecdote about two brothers that always walked to school together. One day while they were walking, Parnell could see that the two brothers were in a heavy conversation and concerned about something so she inquired what was going on. They explained that one brother was studying for a spelling test and the words were not coming to him quickly. Jennifer gave him encouragement and reminded him to ‘take your time and do your best.’
“I will never forget that afternoon as he ran up to me with his spelling test in hand excited that he had received a B on the exam,” shared Parnell. “To me it feels like I have become a part of their family. They come up to me from so many different backgrounds and sometimes it just looks like something at home or school is not going right. I give them encouragement, a smile and maybe a hug and make them realize that there is always someone that cares about them.”
Over the years Jennifer has become familiar with entire families of siblings as they move through the Milford School District. Just last week she was in disbelief as she saw on of her elementary students, now seventeen-years-old, driving her new car to school. The feeling of acceptance and apperciaion is a two-way street for Parnell as she acknowledges that the students also encourage her as they greet her in the mornings and say their goodbyes in the afternoons.
“My favorite part about this job is the kids,” commented Parnell. “I can be having the worst morning and have stress in my life and all the kids have to do is run up and give me a hug; my day is completely fixed.”
Finishing her seventh year as the Bridgeham Avenue crossing guard on Thursday, June 6 Jennifer is looking forward to spending time her her husband and daughter this summer but will miss those tiny faces she helps cross the road everyday until school starts back up in late summer.
“I am going to miss them over the summer,” commented Jennifer. “I always do.”