Almost every weekday at 2:30, when the bell rings at Valley View Elementary School in Abilene, Texas, couselor Jan Hughes takes an extra step for her students. She walks them home.
Ms. Hughes began the unusual practice six years ago while she was a counselor in Omaha, Neb., when she walked home with a child who had been threatened. She found the gesture built a rapport with students and their parents.
"They felt good about it," Ms. Hughes said last week. After a while, she began making home visits.
"When I moved back home to Abilene, I just automatically started doing it to get better acquainted" with students, she explained.
This year, Ms. Hughes began her 20th year in education. She was an elementary teacher for 13 years and has been counseling for seven years.
"When you're a teacher, you're a counselor as well." Now that she is a counselor full time, she said, "I'm not as rushed. I can wear one hat."
In fact, she has scheduled her school day around her walking routine to give her more flexibility. The routine varies, but on average Ms. Hughes said she walks a group of three or four children. Some days she has only one child or none at all.
Students who live within a two-mile radius of the school must walk, and it usually takes Ms. Hughes about an hour to see the children home, barring stops at local businesses for snacks or quick chats with a parent.
"We can just talk or walk in silence," Ms. Hughes said. "It's a time of mutual respect for each other."
Members of the youth-service sector gathered in Washington late last month to welcome Chuck J. Supple, the new president and chief executive officer for Public Allies.
Mr. Supple replaces Vanessa Kirsch, the organization's founder, who left in September. Mr. Supple, 37, came to Public Allies from the Corporation for National Service. Washington-based Public Allies works with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies to place young adults in challenging paid positions. The private nonprofit organization, founded September 1991, received a grant from the federally backed service program AmeriCorps. There are currently 116 Public Allies members working in six cities around the country.
--Adrienne D. Coles