CRESTWOOD, Ill. — On Sept. 6, drivers for Alpha School Bus Company Inc., a subsidiary of Cook-Illinois Corp., walked for three miles through Crestwood, Midlothian, Blue Island and Robbins with 200 bus attendants, parents, students and school administrators to raise awareness about the increasing amount of violence in the communities they serve.
The event was open to the public, and parents received a “Stopping the Violence Starts at Home” booklet that provides tips on how to identify and prevent violent behavior.
The “Stop the Violence” walk was organized by Alpha bus driver Cynthia Johnson and her colleagues, who are members of Drivers, Attendants, Parents, Students and Schools Against Violence (DAPSSAV), a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence in Chicago’s south suburban public schools.
Two years ago, Johnson, co-founder and director of DAPSSAV, was transporting special-needs students in Chicago. At a stoplight, her bus was caught in the cross-fire of rival gangs when teenagers jumped out of a car on her left and began shooting at teens in a vehicle to the right of her bus. The incident prompted Johnson to form DAPSSAV and inspired her and her colleagues to coordinate the walk.
“A lot of violence has taken over the Chicago area,” Johnson explained. “We thought that if we organized a walk, we could get the word out to parents that they need to do more constructive things with their children to get them off the streets and let them know that there’s more to life than gangs, drugs and video games.”
DAPSSAV members received substantial support from Alpha and Cook- Illinois Corp. while planning the walk, which they will hold annually.
Nancy Bruce, Alpha manager, said she and other company employees helped create fliers to publicize the event and provided the drivers with resources to secure sponsorships. Alpha also provided buses to follow the walkers and shuttle them to their vehicles at the end of the walk, which was followed by a picnic and motivational rally.
However, Bruce emphasized that Johnson and her colleagues did most of the work, revealing that they went to Cook-Illinois’ other subsidiaries to get additional drivers, attendants and managers involved.
Johnson said they also held pancake breakfasts and sold candy and DAPSSAV ribbons to raise money for the event, much of which they used to have T-shirts made for walk participants.
Alpha management is impressed with DAPSSAV members’ commitment to their cause. “We couldn’t be more proud of them for putting together this event,” Bruce said several weeks before the walk. “It’s such a positive experience to see what they’ve done.”
For more information about Drivers, Attendants, Parents, Students and Schools Against Violence, visit www.dapssav.org.