By Carol Masshardt
It may seem that it takes a stop sign, neon stripes on a jacket, and getting to a designated street corner on time to be a successful crossing guard, but that would be incomplete. It takes a love of children and a city, an engaging confidence, and an ability to think on one’s feet, and Bob Juliano has all that and more. His post is at the corner of West Eighth and Dorchester St. and he oversees the safety of UP Academy students in grades 6-8, and other teens walking home from other Boston Public Schools. Every bit of the respect has been earned in relationships with teens who likely have more on their minds than waiting for speeding cars. Without the advantage of parents guiding the conversation as in elementary schools, Bob is the kind of authentic and caring presence these teenagers seem to appreciate.
Born in Chelsea and raised on D. Street, Bob Juliano had worked in security for thirteen years, and at Marion Manor for fourteen. He is husband to Maria and father of Samantha and Robert. He earned a GED degree after leaving South Boston High to help take care of his sick grandfather. He is well grounded in kindness and comfortable with outreach to people of all backgrounds.
“I was brought up to treat everyone the same, and to take into account what someone might be going through. I love people, and I love talking!” he said. “These are good kids, and sometimes when one is having trouble you see change over time. They are decent kids, and 98% are polite.”
On a day just before the holiday break, Bob Juliano explained that the kids are restless after school all day, and a little “hyper” when they get out. It didn’t stop him from fist pumping many and in a matter-of-fact way, asking them to stop before bounding across Dorchester St.
One student was eager to get where he was going and headed out in traffic. Bob asked him firmly to stop and wait and the student asked “why?” Bob didn’t miss a beat and felt an explanation was needed. “You see how many cars go right through red lights. They might not stop, and it is dangerous,” he said. The boy calmly waited knowing that Bob Juliano literally had his back.
In a short time, at least three cars went through red lights, as over three hundred students at UP Academy were eager to get home. Bob Juliano, no stranger to city life, is rightfully concerned and thinks about resolutions. However, the most obvious gift he brings to his job is being able to be part of a community of teenagers and to have a strong sense of regard for them. He also just enjoys it.
“Today is wear your pajamas to school day. Wait until you see them,” he joyously said. “This job keeps me young and energized.”
Teenagers may be many things but talking to strangers or coming up with phony answers is not usually in their repertoire. There was something automatic and genuine when some students were asked about their crossing guard.
“He is a really nice dude. He makes me laugh,” said a serious appearing twelve-year-old, Jakobe.
A group of talkative girls stopped to say, “same to you” when he wished them a good holiday, and a high school student, Adnan, walking home from “downtown” smiled and added, “he is really an amazing guy out here every day.”
“This is a melting pot,” said Bob Juliano “and I like it that way. You know, it’s what a city should be. I like meeting everyone,” he said as he slowed down another group of fast walking students. “I used to be more boisterous, but I’ve learned to tone down a little bit, and it usually works,” he said, as another car ran a red light and hundreds of his kids navigated a city made a touch safer and more caring.