King Crusaders Give Neighborhood a Clean Sweep

The King Crusaders did a clean sweep of their school's neighborhood today.

The King Crusaders did a clean sweep of their school’s neighborhood today.

The stretch of Forest Avenue between 9th and 19th Streets is sporting a freshly combed look today thanks to the efforts of the King Crusaders who made it their business to make a clean sweep of litter in the area first thing this morning.

The Crusaders are a newly formed group of student leaders from King Elementary School, 4th graders who were nominated by their teachers based on demonstrated leadership potential. King Behavior Coach Jessica Cameron brought the idea for the group with her from McCombs Middle School, home of the Golden Eagles, when she transferred to King a year ago. Another similar group at the middle school level is the Harding Wolfpack.

“But King is the first elementary school in the district to establish this type of peer accountability leadership group,” according to Cameron. The idea is that eventually the kids will hold each other to even higher standards than the ones imposed by teachers and staff.

The charter group of seven Crusaders gathered at school bright and early Monday morning and was issued their gear: gloves, bags, vests and pincers, all provided by the City of Des Moines Public Works Department which also installed signs at each end of the Crusaders’ route to clearly and formally mark the zone as Crusader territory.

Erica Quinn couldn’t wait to tell a couple of tagalongs how one qualifies to become a Crusader. “Our teachers chose us,” she said proudly. “They said we can become leaders.”

Ibrahim Toure thought the early-morning patrol on a spectacular, crisp autumn morning was “exciting.” He wished out loud “that I could do this all day.”

As the squad of pint-sized community volunteers made its way down the street a city pickup truck followed along to toss the collection bags into when they started to get heavy (if trash was treasure they would have collected a couple of chests’ worth). Passing motorists honked and flashed thumbs-up in appreciation for the clear difference being made by ridding the neighborhood of discarded water bottles and fast food debris. There was even time for an occasional sword fight with pickers and some politics was talked, too, as the mostly nine year-olds strolled past candidate signs and began to calculate when they will become eligible voters.

On the way back to school the Crusaders stopped off at Creative Visions where they were thanked for their personal investments in the community and treated to chocolate milk and orange juice. Alidia Taylor’s feet dangled back and forth, apparently eager to get back outside and finish the great job the group had started. Rarely do trash picker-uppers display the enthusiasm for their jobs that was reflected in Alidia’s irrepressible grins.

Just wait until the real fun starts! Crusaders who qualify based on behavior standards will get to go on monthly outings more attractive than litter patrols as the program takes root and expands to eventually include 3th – 5th graders. But for now the satisfaction of a job well done is plenty of reward. So contagious was the civic spirit of the young King Crusaders that after they’d done their thing to the neighborhood sidewalks and parkings a city street sweeper came along to do its own. It was loud and powerful, almost as loud and powerful as seven 4th graders on a crusade.

Photos of the King Crusaders’ Cleanup Work

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