PPS families: Navigation Ambassadors can help your kids get to school

Ambassador Kait Nykwest, school board member Veronica Edwards and ambassador Lisa Gonzalez (left to right) out helping local students. Photo by Graham Mulqueen courtesy of A+ Schools.

Pittsburgh Public School (PPS) students, this year comes with a new challenge: There aren’t enough school bus drivers available. So some kids who were picked up last year by a yellow school bus will be walking to school or taking a Port Authority bus this year.

That can be an uncomfortable and confusing experience, even for older kids. So PPS partnered with the Pittsburgh Learning Collaborative (PLC) to hire and train hundreds of folks to serve as “navigation ambassadors.”

Here are the details (including info about applying for this job):

What are navigation ambassadors? These part-time workers are stationed at intersections around the city to help kids safely walk to school or get on the correct bus. That’s the practical side of their job. But they’re also serving as friendly, trusted adults who can help kids feel more comfortable and make these first weeks of school as positive as possible.

They’ll be wearing special vests to let kids know they are navigation ambassadors, says James Fogarty, executive director of A+ Schools, one of the organizations in the PLC that helped create this program.

The hope, Fogarty says, is that kids will feel comfortable knowing “that volunteer in that vest with that sticker is someone you can ask, if you have a question.”

When will the Ambassadors be helping kids? The plan right now is to have navigation ambassadors out each day through Oct. 15.

Sounds interesting. Can I apply for this part-time job, even though school has already started? Yes. There are more shifts still left to fill, so the PLC tells us hiring is still happening. The pay is $15 per hour and ambassadors work four hours per day. Click here for more details about the job and how to apply.

Will anyone else be helping kids get to school? Fogarty tells Kidsburgh that the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is sending staff members out to help kids get safely to the schools downtown. The city has also let street cleaners know that kids may be struggling with new routes. And Port Authority bus drivers have been told that they may have unfamiliar young riders.

In addition, PPS plans to have administrative staff members out in the mornings throughout this week, Fogarty says: “It’s really a team effort across multiple organizations.”

Hopefully, these friendly faces will help Pittsburgh’s kids begin their days with less stress and more confidence.