Friendly crossing guard builds rapports with Tenley students


Photo by Margaret Heffernan

Anna Dueholm

Whether it’s a friendly wave in the morning or pleasant small talk when everyone’s cleared out in the afternoon, Joseph Dorsey, Alice Deal Middle School’s crossing guard and very own guardian angel, is always able to put a smile on students’ faces.

Though he’s only been working as a crossing guard at the corner of Deal and Nebraska Avenue for three years, he considers many of the students to be family.

A DC native, Dorsey attended John F. Cook Elementary School, Shaw Junior High School, Friendship Armstrong Academy for high school, and Federal City College. After school, he joined the Marine Corps, which he left in 1968. “Those were beautiful memories,” he said of his time as a Marine. “I retired from District government, I retired from private industry, I get my military pension, and I come out here, not because I need the work, but because I enjoy the children,” Dorsey said, laughing.

Dorsey works five days a week for two and a half hours at the beginning of the school day and two hours at the day’s end. When he first started, he wasn’t a huge fan of his job. “When I first came here, the children just did things that would anger me. I don’t think they realized that I was there for them,” he said. He decided it was time to retire. He was about to submit his resignation papers when someone changed his mind. “I was on my way to turn in my resignation and I saw her coming. This little girl walked over to me and she said, ‘Thank you for being here,’ and I couldn’t quit,” he recalled. He has since gotten to know her mother, her father, and her grandfather. “You just become part of the family,” he said.

Since then, Dorsey has decided he’s in it for the long haul. “Everybody tells me I shouldn’t work, but I enjoy working,” he said. “I’ve reached that age where if you’re not busy, you’re going to wind up in the hospital somewhere. So, I stay busy.” He said that if he were to be relocated, he would quit. “I don’t want to be nowhere but here.”

When he’s not posted at school, Dorsey can be spotted working at various events around town, including the National Cherry Blossom Festival, sporting events, and other celebrations. However, being around kids is his favorite, and his biggest priority is protecting them. “A lot of drivers are in a rush and they don’t realize that in those five to 10 seconds they’re trying to save, they’ll run over a kid,” he said. “The kids come first. I have seven great-grandkids and a lot of these kids remind me of my family. And, in short, I’d take a bullet for one of these kids. I love them.”