Out of 2,000 kids in San Diego Police Department’s Student Safety Patrol, only one can be Colonel. This year that highest ranking honor went to Sage Canyon sixth grader Shelby Sparks.
Shelby, 12, was named Colonel at a special ceremony on Dec. 17 after showing extraordinary traits of dedication, respect of the student body, demonstrating responsibility and reliability, being in the top third of her class academically, and being above average in citizenship. Shelby was also judged on the merits of a written essay and in a rigorous interview with a panel of two police officers and two civilians.
Shelby joined Sage Canyon’s Safety Patrol at the end of fourth grade — applicants must write an essay and are trained to begin serving as fifth graders.
“I really like volunteering and helping out the community and I thought it would be a good opportunity to help out with the crosswalks and to keep people safe,” Shelby said.
Shelby serves on the patrol one day a week and her day is Thursday. It’s a commitment to get to school a half hour early to help with morning drop-off and leave class early at the end of the day to help keep pick-ups safe. She is so dedicated to her post that she even worked with two casts on her legs this year because she had promised to fill in for a fellow Safety Patrol’s shift.
The patrol has inspection every month with Officer Brookes Rhodes from the Northwestern Division —he promotes members who have earned enough merits to move up in rank and makes sure all of the patrol is in uniform and following safety procedures.
Shelby said the most challenging thing about her patrol is making sure all of the parents are paying attention — she said sometimes they don’t want to come to a complete stop in their cars. According to Officer Rhodes, Sage Canyon is one of the more difficult patrol posts in the city due to its crossing configuration.
Despite it being one of the hardest patrols, there haven’t been any accidents — in fact, there have been no accidents at any San Diego school with a patrol this year.
For the process of achieving Colonel, Shelby beat out 15 other kids who were up for the position and she didn’t find out until that Dec. 17 ceremony.
“It was the most exciting thing ever,” said mom Amy, who cheered proudly for her daughter.
“I was surprised,” Shelby said, who sat in her seat for a moment not totally believing that she’d won.
When she reached the stage, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman honored her with her eagle pin that she will wear on her Safety Patrol hat. Zimmerman said that she had done Safety Patrol in her youth, which served as an inspiration for all of the young patrol kids.
“I really like Safety Patrol but I wouldn’t want to be a police officer because it’s scary and hard,” Shelby said, noting that she was able to do a ride-along with Officer Rhodes where she learned about all the job entails and the sacrifices police officers make.
To be Colonel involves a few extra responsibilities and Shelby is ready to get started on her last months of service this school year before starting middle school.