Apache Junction Mounted Rangers help AJUSD students cross street safely

(Photo courtesy of Apache Junction Unified School District)

Apache Junction Mounted Rangers came to the rescue of Apache Junction school children by serving as temporary volunteer crossing guards near Cactus Canyon Junior High, 801 W. Southern Ave. in Apache Junction.

On Nov. 30 a 13-year-old student was struck by an automobile while crossing the street and suffered a broken leg. Immediately after the accident, the city’s police and streets department investigated the situation. While there are street lights along the heavily-used street, shadows are cast that can make visibility difficult in certain areas of the neighborhood, particularly if students wear dark clothing, or ride bicycles without head lamps.

To make matters worse, speeding has been an issue in the area. Police increased their presence and cited drivers for speeding. Dr. Krista L. Anderson, Apache Junction Unified School District superintendent, arrived early to work the week following the incident and performed crossing guard duties from 6:30 to 7 a.m. in the crosswalk where the student was injured. One Monday morning, Cami Garcia, a school board member, joined Dr. Anderson and helped 35 children cross the street, as well as assess the area for safety issues.

However, the superintendent needed more help and she needed it right away.

After a Dec. 5 Apache Junction City Council meeting, Dr. Anderson struck up a conversation with Linda Umlah, a volunteer with the Apache Junction Mounted Rangers who had just been recognized by the city council for outstanding volunteerism. In a flash, Mrs. Umlah connected the superintendent with Lyle Gallagher, captain of the AJMR. Mrs. Umlah and Capt. Gallagher offered the help of the Rangers, discussed a plan, and contacted AJUSD’s volunteer department to see how the Rangers could be of service.

The timing was perfect.

Dr. Anderson had already ordered flashing lights, safety vests and hand-held stop signs. The necessary volunteer paperwork and background checks were expedited and within 48 hours the first ranger, Jerry Kraft, was on the scene crossing kids in the crosswalk. The Apache Junction Mounted Rangers have scheduled rangers to perform crosswalk duty until February, or until morning hours lighten.

“This is an example of how our community comes together to help solve a problem,” said Dr. Anderson, who joined AJUSD as school superintendent in May. “I am so thankful for the quick actions of the police, city council, school board members, AJUSD staff, and the AJ Mounted Rangers for creating a solution that puts the needs of our students first.”

The Apache Junction Unified School District serves over 3,600 students in a 217-square mile area that includes the city of Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Peralta Trail, Queen Valley and the unincorporated areas of the Superstition Mountain foothills. It was formed in 1952. For more information call 480-982-1110, or visit www.ajusd.org or www.facebook.com/ajusd43.

The AJ Mounted Rangers is a volunteer peace-keeping organization that supports children and youth by providing safety measures at various community events. It is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization that promotes the traditions of the Old West, as well as assisting with emergency food and educational needs, athletics and musical programs, academic assistance and charitable events. The AJMR participate in parades, memorial services and rodeos while on horseback, quad runners or foot patrol.  For more information visit www.ajmountedrangers.org.

Editor’s note: Sally Marks is a public relations specialist for the Apache Junction Unified School District.

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