BHS students work to make their walk safer

City, high school celebrates new Skeel Street crossing

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Brighton High School and the city of Brighton celebrated a crosswalk improvement project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Eighth Avenue and Skeel Street, unveiling new flashing signals and a dedication sign with the students' names that passed policy on April 15.

"When they came to the council meeting last November, I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to work with them. This is another great example of youth and government coming together and making progress in the community to make this intersection safer," said Michael Woodruff, the city's director of infrastructure.

The Brighton City Council and the city of Brighton's public works division received a proposal from Brighton High School's advanced-placement government class who said the crosswalk at the high school was unsafe after a  student died at Ninth Avenue and Egbert Street in 2017.

Candice Halverson, who teaches the A.P. government class at the high school, learned about Project Citizen last year. It's meant to teach young people that they can affect policy change. It's a program that allows the student to find something in the community to change or do their best to fix it.

Seriah DeWalt, a Brighton High School junior in the government class, participated in the Project Citizen class.

"I didn't expect this to get this far. We started brainstorming ideas, and we decided to fix the traffic problem at the school because there were several accidents where kids got hit at this crosswalk," said DeWalt.

Halverson says the program is student-driven and encourages students to identify a problem in their community and the stakeholders in this case. They figured out which city council representatives were in the high school's district and researched costs and what would be required to put in flashing crosswalks.

"The student reached out to council and got on the meeting agenda to pitch their proposal idea with a presentation last November," said Halverson.

Tim Watts, councilor from Ward I, said, "It's a public safety issue. The students were passionate and came to talk to us. This is what happens when the community comes out to voice their concern and let us know what's needed."

Woodruff met and worked with students about their ideas of flashing signs and also made several improvements with the concrete landings, the pads for the sidewalk and the new striping on the roadway.

Education officials said they were proud.

"I'm incredibly proud of the students and grateful for the partnership with the city," Chris Fiedler, 27J superintendent, said. "It is a long time coming. It's great to have a safe crossing here."

"I'm happy for the students passing policy and that they were the driving force behind it. What's impressive is that these kids are active and involved at this young age," said Tom Green, 27J Schools board of education member.

"These students got a policy made, and it's going to empower them as citizens to make a difference. They will probably be more civically engaged for the rest of their lives and learned they can actually do something," said Halverson.

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