Veteran crossing guard creates community connections while keeping students safe

Crossing Guard Charlethia Vaughn is nearly a permanent fixture at the corner of Walnut Bend Lane and Briar Forest Drive during the school year.  

Every morning and afternoon, she is there to help Walnut Bend Elementary School students and their parents cross the busy street — even when the Texas heat is nearly unbearable, when the skies are pouring rain, or when it’s so cold, her fingers get numb. 

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she said. “This community has really embraced me.”  

Vaughn is one of more than 600 HISD crossing guards tasked with ensuring students have safe passage to and from school. The crossing guard division is part of Facilities Services & Fleet Operations, which is a part of the district’s Business Operations division. 

Seventeen years ago, Vaughn was searching for a job that coincided with her children’s schedules when she met an Askew Elementary School crossing guard, who suggested that her outgoing personality would be a perfect fit for the job. She took his advice and quickly discovered she was a natural. 

“It was like I had been doing it for years even though I had just started,” Vaughn said.  

Walnut Bend Principal Michele Dahlquist said she often receives positive feedback about Vaughn from parents and students.  

“She’s always ready to offer a wave or a smile,” Dahlquist said. “She’s very reliable and very committed to our school and our students.”  

For Vaughn, it’s important to show students that she cares. And the students she serves reciprocate, bringing her tokens of appreciation and sometimes even returning as adults to visit the friendly woman who helped them cross the street as children.  

In her work, Vaughn said she encounters challenging people from time to time. She distinctly remembers an instance a few years ago when a frustrated driver took his anger out on her. 

“He must have called me every name,” Vaughn recalled.  

Despite his disposition, Vaughn said she remained calm and did not lose her signature smile. The next day, the man returned with candy to apologize for his behavior. 

Vaughn has other passions. She loves reading murder mysteries and spending time with her nieces. But being a crossing guard is her calling. 

“I just love being there,” Vaughn said. “It’s enjoyable. It’s what I want to do.”