Two years ago, Ben Buie ’23 tackled a seventh grade assignment with enthusiasm and attention to detail. In social studies, grade 7 students are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, interviewing those who can provide more information, and sending a proposal to fix the issue to a person in power. For Ben, the issue was a dangerous crosswalk in West Roxbury. It’s near Holy Name School and is often used by students. However, Ben noted that cars tend to speed through the area and ignore pedestrians, making it unsafe for the community. “I went to Holy Name for three years,” says Ben. “I would walk over to the local teen center after school, and the crosswalk is how I got to school and walked home. I befriended the crossing guard, Joyce, and she always had to jump out in front of cars and stick her hands in the air so that cars would notice her. It was a big issue.”
After doing thorough research, talking to the crossing guard, a police officer, teachers, parents, and even the West Roxbury liaison to Mayor Marty Walsh’s office, Ben offered a workable solution--a solar panel blinking stop sign (officially known as an RFB, or Rapid Flashing Beacon). He gathered up the evidence, put together a proposal, and sent it to the Boston Transportation Department. With his social studies assignment completed, Ben moved on. Little did he know that two years later, he’d be celebrating his success back at the crosswalk with a very relieved crossing guard.
However, Ben’s project didn’t succeed immediately. He heard nothing back from his original proposal. But in February 2019, following a deadly accident on the same street, he and his family were reinvigorated to pursue a solution. When they reached out to Charlotte Fleetwood, the Transportation Planner for the Boston Transportation Department, she asked to read Ben’s report. After reviewing it, she requested funding, worked with the Mayor’s office, and pushed the project through. This October, Ben stopped by to see the newly installed signs and posed for a picture with his crossing guard friend, Joyce Kerrigan.
The grade 7 social studies civics curriculum uses the concept of community as an anchoring theme. Each spring, students examine the structure of local and federal government, the history of various attempts to govern, and the meaning of citizenship. Ben says he feels this particular project made him more comfortable stepping into the spotlight. “I learned how to talk to people,” he says. “I think it made me more comfortable presenting myself, being able to talk to officials who have big titles, and to make a name for myself. It forced me to be brave, to take the next step.” He adds, “I think this is a way that Xaverian is more hands on. They really want to push us to see how we can make a difference by doing the simple things in our community...they want us to be a leader and to make change. I’m happy that I was able to give back to the community.”This article appeared in the winter 2020 version of the Xaverian Magazine. Click here to view a digital copy of the full magazine.