ROCK HILL — Banks Wright is a typical 11-year-old.
The fifth-grade student at Ebinport Elementary School in Rock Hill likes to hunt and fish and play soccer. At school, he likes social studies and science. His least favorite subject is language arts.
One day, he said, he might like to be a Marine.
For now, Banks is among the few and the proud at Ebinport. Not only is he a member of the 40-strong school patrol force, he is the captain of the morning crew.
His leadership and dedication is so exemplary that Banks was recently named the S.C. School Patrolman of the Year.
He has an important role, said Shane Gooden, principal at Ebinport. He reminds everyone that their job is to take care of people. His award says a lot about our program and says a lot about Banks and the role of his parents and teachers.
I didnt think Id beat out all these people, Banks said of the honor. In fact, when it came to voting for captain, Banks cast his vote for his friend Christian Perez.
Banks is kind and trustworthy, and he is always there and is respectful, Perez said.
Only fifth-graders can serve on the safety patrol, and they must be nominated by a teacher.
Being a safety patrol student was one of Banks goals.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance and it is a good experience, helping me become a better leader, he said.
Leadership and commitment are just two of the traits that Banks mother, Melissa, expects from her children. Melissa Wright has three children of her own and the students she teaches daily in her third-grade classroom at Ebinport.
She has high expectations for her children at home and in her classroom.
Leadership is all part of character development and compassion, doing the right thing. Dont be a bossy boss, she said. Leaders are only strong people if the people are with you.
Being the child of a teacher at the school has benefits and drawbacks. Banks said his mom often remembers to bring the things he forgets. But his mom has told his teachers not to cut him any slack because he is her son.
Banks ability to recognize a problem and offer a solution were reasons he was selected the best safety patrol student in the state.
Ebinport has a horseshoe-shaped drive that allows parents to drop off their children at or near the front door. When cars stack up, some drivers cut through the parking lot. When drivers turn into the parking lot school rules require them to park and walk their children across the driveway.
But some parents dont follow the rules. So Banks suggested a safety patrol station in the parking lot to help children out of cars and then keep them safe until an adult signals it is OK to cross the driveway.
Banks assigned the new position to himself. For 45 minutes each morning, he helps children out of cars, greeting the parents and the children with a smile and a hello.
Jane Parris, one of the safety patrol advisers at Ebinport, said Banks suggestion not only has improved safety, but also has cut down on the complaints from parents who stay in the traffic line to drop off their children.
When parents use the driveway, school patrol members such as Perez are waiting to assist their children.
Banks also has trained every member of the morning crew in how to put up the flags each morning at the school.
Banks and Carson Masterton, a fifth-grader at Bethel Elementary in Midland, N.C., recently were recognized at a Charlotte Bobcats professional basketball game for being the top school patrol members in the Carolinas. The safety school patrol program is a part of the American Automobile Association. This is the third year AAA has awarded top state honors for the Carolinas.
In addition to safety initiatives, AAA looks for safety skills, leadership, school and community involvement in making its state selection.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066