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Take one part of leadership, two parts of respect and responsibility, a drop of awareness, and a smidge of safety. Stir until the chemistry has gelled, and you've got the Virginia Parks School Panthers "right stuff" patrolling the crosswalks.

In only the programs second year, the Panther Patrol consists of 15 squads, composed of 45 students in the 4th through 6th grades. Their responsibilities include peer mediation, curb side assistance, and crossing guards.

To maintain a high level of safety and awareness, the Panther Patrol completes a five hour training program modeled after the AAA Safety Patrol Program. The students also meet monthly to review the training program and address any concerns they may have.

"Compared to the other schools, they are doing a very good job with safety," said Ceres Police Officer, Sergeant Danny Vierra. "They are blowing the whistle and making sure traffic is stopped before entering the street."

Brittany Turnbow

Among them is the Panthers' Patroller of the Year, Captain Brittany Turnbow, a sixth grader at Virginia Parks Elementary School.

Each morning, as the students file in and put on their safety gear, Turnbow takes it upon herself to monitor the attendance of the squads reporting for duty. In the event of an absence, without hesitation Turnbow finds a replacement or fills in herself so the squads are not short handed.

"Brittany is always the first student to arrive whether she is on duty or not," said patrol coordinator Joaquin Galvan. "She always makes herself available in the event of an absence with safety being the top priority."

Once the squads are established, Turnbow takes charge and leads by example. She radios in to alert the staff they are departing and marches off chanting the Panther cheer, with her squad following suit. Once at their post, Turnbow frequently scans her surroundings for strangers, communicates with staff, and monitors traffic to avoid traffic jams and to allow students to cross safely.

"I feel responsible to watch for strangers and dangerous situations that may arise," said Turnbow. "It is my job to cross many students and their families safely."

Turnbow's success does not end with the Panther Patrol. She is an athlete excelling in various sports, part of the leadership life skills team known at BLAST (Believe, Learn, Appreciate, Succeed, Triumph), and a consistent honor roll student with several years of perfect attendance. Her awards include academic excellence and the Principal's Honor Roll Award. Most recently, Turnbow was appointed the duties of morning announcer for Virginia Parks Elementary School.

"Brittany is a very bright student, eager to take a leadership roll at Virginia Parks Elementary School," said sixth grade teacher, Tim Taylor. "She has proven to be and effective leader and achieve her goals when she sets her mind to it."

In her spare time, Turnbow has participated in fund raisers for the safety patrol and the BLAST leadership program, and has volunteered at the Salvation Army during Food Drives to distribute food to needy families.

"It makes me feel good inside helping others," said Turnbow. "It also makes me thankful for all the things that my family and I have."

Turnbow's hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. At a recent safety patrol meeting, Turnbow was nominated by her peers as "Patroller of the Year" at Virginia Parks Elementary School. She was then entered into the annual AAA Safety Patroller of the Year contest.

"I am proud beyond words," said Turnbow's mother Gin. "She is a real inspiration to me each and every day."

Patroller of the Year recipients will be notified this month. The winners will be invited to attend the AAA School Safety Patrol Lifesaver event in Washington, D.C. May 18-20.