MOUNT VERNON — According to the faculty at Pleasant Street Elementary School, 11-year-old Hunter Jones is a student any teacher would be happy to have.
The son of Brad and Julie Jones of Mount Vernon, and a conscientious student, Hunter is known to be honest and responsible. After a split-second decision he made Wednesday afternoon, his classmates and teachers now also know him to be a hero.
While the fifth-grader was preparing to help hundreds of students safely cross Pleasant Street, he noticed a small child playing near the doors of the school.
“The kid was at the corner by the door, and he started running,” Hunter recalled. “I thought he was gonna run around the flagpole and then back to his mom, but he ran into the road.”
Traffic is heavy in front of the school when school is dismissed, and the light was green for oncoming traffic. Without hesitating, Hunter ran into Pleasant Street after the preschooler.
“I grabbed him before he got into the middle of the road,” Hunter said. “He was tugging and tugging, but I held onto him until his mother came and got him.”
The boy’s mother ran to him in the street.
Student Advocate Dirk Parker was watching the Pleasant Street students file out to go home when he saw the boy’s mother in the street, visibly upset with her son.
“The mom was upset, but she was thrilled with Hunter,” Parker said.
“When we’ve got 350 to 400 kids leaving at once, it’s a potentially dangerous situation,” Parker said of the heavy traffic, adding that unsafe speeds used by many drivers adds to the worry. “We’ve been concerned about that for years.”
Safety Patrol Advisor DeeDee Doyle, a third-grade teacher at Pleasant Street, said signals installed by the city a few years ago have helped improve safety, but drivers continue to speed through the school zone, sometimes driving through a red light.
Following in the footsteps of his father, older brothers and an older sister, Hunter has served on the safety patrol out of a concern for others.
“I get to cross people and prevent them from getting hurt,” he explained.
“It lets me get out of class early, too,” he said with a grin.
Principal Karen Boylan said she knows Hunter’s diligence on the job comes from a desire to help others.
“Hunter does a very good job,” she said. “He thinks of others and he watches out for others. He’s very responsible.”
“He’s very honest and conscientious,” Doyle said. “He always tries very hard to do the right thing.”
Hunter said his friends and family have praised his selfless act.
“My mom gave me a hug and said nice job for saving that kid,” he said.
Hunter even got to speak to his classmates about safety during announcements Thursday.
“My teachers and my friends have called me a hero and a super-hero,” he said.
When asked if he thinks what he did was heroic, Hunter smiled.
“Sort of,” he said.
Boylan, Parker and Doyle took the opportunity to remind drivers to slow down because a child could be in the path of traffic.
Doyle said when Parker came to tell her what had happened, she became very emotional.
“I had goosebumps and was crying,” she said. “When we train safety patrol, this is our goal. We keep procedures the same, because with consistency, procedures and rules, we want the children to be safe. When you think about what the consequences could have been ... it was really a blessing and we have Hunter to thank for that.”
“You shouldn’t drive that fast through here, you should drive what the speed limit says because kids could run out there when nobody’s looking or nobody’s out there,” Hunter said.
He has a warning for his classmates as well.
“When you’re crossing the road, watch the sign and be careful, because people go flying through here,” he said.
Hunter said when his fellow students become slightly offended by his reminders to stay in the crosswalk and cross only with the appropriate traffic signal, he does not let it bother him.
“Sometimes they can get snotty and sometimes they listen,” he said. “But it’s only to keep them safe.”