Woodlawn Catholic students say goodbye to favorite crossing guard

Woodlawn Catholic students say goodbye to favorite crossing guard

Laurie Robin holds up traffic for students to cross last Friday. (Breeze photo by Diandra Markgraft)

PAWTUCKET – As school’s closing bell chimed in Pawtucket last Friday, hundreds of students from Woodlawn Catholic Regional School marched from their classrooms to the crosswalk on Weeden Street.

Clutching balloons, roses and handmade cards, they were ready to say goodbye to a friend – one who they caught in a rare moment completely off her guard.

Seeing the children coming with gifts, Laurie Robin’s eyes immediately welled up. “I’m overwhelmed,” said the crossing guard between hugs from students, parents and faculty alike.

After 11 years as a crossing guard, and five at this patch of pavement alone, the school’s veteran guard will hang up her neon yellow vest in retirement.

She relished these final hugs. After all, that is what brought her to this post five years ago – she remembered Woodlawn’s friendliness from when her own children attended.

“There was a Mrs. Brown here, and she just made the job look like so much fun,” Robin recalled. “I said if I ever do that, this would be the ideal spot to be, and I’ve always liked it.”

Woodlawn Principal Veronica Procopio said Robin has come to be like family. Recognizing a crossing guard’s willingness to endanger life and limb, Procopio noted, many wrongly believe this is a “sweet job” with limited hours.

Instead, she explained, it really makes a difference for the students who look to Robin for the full-smile start to their days. She provides that while jumping into traffic on the busy thoroughfare with her metal stop sign as a singular item of defense against the late-to-work and the texting-while-driving crowds.

“Anyone who has this job loves children, because you wouldn’t stand in the freezing cold or hot sun, day in and day out, if you didn’t care for those children,” Procopio added.

Robin said she began her 11-year career as a crossing guard for no other reason than her husband worked for the city, and asked if she wanted to as well. She started at Agnes Little, and waved kids across streets at Shea and Baldwin before submitting her official bid to monitor the Woodlawn walk.

Crossing guard posts are built on a seniority basis, and Robin is one of four crossing guards who stop traffic in the block. She crosses some 200 children from Woodlawn, while children also spill over from Slater Middle and Cunningham Elementary.

With her post’s proximity to a number of schools, Robin watches over hundreds of children each day, “and she knows them all,” Procopio said.

That is what Soniya Thapa, a 6th-grade junior crossing guard, said she will miss most about Robin.

“She knows everyone’s name, and she would always smile at me,” Thapa said.

Thapa is one of four junior guards from Bethany Bessette’s 6th-grade class.

Bessette said Robin was a role model for Thapa and other junior guards, and she will miss the camaraderie the “unofficial member of the faculty” brought to work.

“We’re like family at this school,” Bessette added. “That’s just a rare thing you’ll find.”

Robin said she will miss each child, and the sense of family.

“I love the fact that I’m retiring, but I’m really going to miss the people,” she said. “There are a lot of kids, even from other schools, I really enjoy seeing. They give me hugs in the morning. That’s the hard part.”

As for Woodlawn students, they’re adopting a wait-and-see attitude to mark how well they get along with a new guard. Hope is high that the replacement will show them the same care and attention Robin had for so many years.

“I’m a true believer to treat the children the way you want to be treated,” Robin said, pausing to cross a few straggling students. “If you treat them nicely with a smile, then maybe that’s going to help them smile and be nice to people on their way back.”