by Nina Linton
When Jack Arsenault steps out onto one of the busiest thoroughfares in Charlottetown, he not only ensures he gets across the road safely but that dozens of Parkdale Elementary School students under his guard make it to class unscathed.
Spending 13 hours a week at the corner of St. Peter’s Road and St. Pius X Avenue, Jack raises his handheld stop sign to countless streams of cars that sputter to a halt mere feet away.
The dedicated civilian has become a fixture in the local community over the past 33 years. “I got a call from the Town of Parkdale to fill in for one day, and I have been there ever since,” says Jack, admitting that first day on the pavement was daunting. “It was kind of scary because I had never done it before; there was the traffic and watching the kids.”
Jack knows each of the students by name and appreciates the interaction he has with them. “I just enjoy when the kids are joking and carrying on, perhaps throwing a snowball at you or when they are playing around. They are all great kids at Parkdale.”
However, he also doles out tough love to the students. “At times you have to be very strict with them and you have to really watch the traffic because you don’t know sometimes if the cars are going to stop.” Only when he is confident the vehicles have paused does the conscientious crossing guard give his young wards the okay to step off the curb, and continue on their way to or from school.
With three grandchildren of his own, the local resident recognizes the immense impact his daily shift has on the lives of school children and their families.
Pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury and death for children under 14 years old in Canada. Diligent crossing guards like Arsenault are key in preventing these avoidable tragedies.
In 2010, Jack was awarded top honours in Safe Kids Canada’s Favourite Crossing Guard Contest, for his exemplary decades long service to child pedestrians. He is the first Islander to win this national accolade. “It was quite an honour,” he says. “I thought it was somebody pulling a joke on me at first, but then they said it was no joke. It is very nice award that makes you feel pretty good about yourself, that people notice you are doing a decent job.”
The caring citizen is known for going above and beyond in the larger community he serves—whether that be digging into his pocket to outfit under privileged kids in essential winter gear, or taking extra time to ensure safe crossing for special needs children or elderly pedestrians on the busy street.
“All crosswalk guards do a great job. They are out in all kinds of weather, and it is a very treacherous job with big responsibility, and sometimes they don’t get the credit they deserve.”