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McAuliffe 8th Graders Take Action To Get Sidewalks For Their School

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
McAuliffe Middle School is located on the frontage road of Loop 410 near Old Pearsall Road. Students petitioned the city for sidewalks in front of the school to make it safer for families to access the campus.

If you want something, just ask, and eighth graders at Christa McAuliffe Middle School in the Southwest ISD are learning that lesson first hand this holiday season.

They decided to write letters to their city councilman, Rey Saldaña, to ask for sidewalks in front of their school. McAuliffe is located on the frontage road of Loop 410 near Old Pearsall Road, and does not have sidewalks to let parents and students access the campus safely.

"They're all really good," said Saldaña as he flipped through the letters inside the city hall chambers.

He then read them aloud:

"Dear Councilman, I'm writing to ask you to please support sidewalks for McAuliffe Middle School," read Saldaña.

Another student wrote to him and said that she can't participate in extra curricular activities because she must take the bus to get home.

"If she doesn't catch the bus, there's no other way home because her parents are both working," Saldaña said.

The letter-writing campaign started because of an idea one of the students, who is on the student council. McAuliffe Principal Mark Figueroa had also been talking with Saldaña on how to solve truancy issues.

Figueroa said sometimes a student's absence is not because they want to be absent.

"A lot of our parents do have multiple jobs, so when they leave for work early, it's really up to the student to get up and unfortunately, if they do get up late their only avenue is to walk," Figueroa said.

Student council sponsor Frances Quijano is proud of her students, and said it has inspired her to work with future classes to help the community.

"This group of students did it because they genuinely wanted something done, and they wanted to prevent an accident," she said.

After city council approved the project, the students talked about what their letters did.

'Now we know that if you want things done, you have to speak up,'" Quijano said of her students conversation.

"These are kids who are worried about other neighbors, they're worried about their fellow students and they turned it into action," said Saldaña. "They said let's go try to petition and ask our local government if they'll fix this problem, and we are, and we will because of them."

The $284,000 project will be paid for with city and state funds. The design will begin in January and construction will start in the summer, with the sidewalks ready for students to use by the start of next school year. Earlier this year, council members, including Saldaña and District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal advocated for funding to provide sidewalks near schools in the Safe Access to Schools initiative. The measure seeks to make money available for adequate street lighting around school zones as well.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.