At Mohawk College, evening classes and study sessions may not be every student and staff member’s favourite time to get their work done.
However, it may not be for all the same reasons for everyone.
Heading on home after dark can cause an uneasy feeling of concern for one’s safety.
Reports of assaults and prowlers on or close to school campuses across Canada are very real and one of the most recent cases happened at Brock University.
On May 11, 2017, a man was arrested and charged with an indecent act in a public place after allegedly exposing himself in a parking lot of the university.
These are the kinds of incidents that Mohawk’s Walk Smart program, based out of the MCACES resource centre, is actively trying to reduce. Student success coach and Walk Smart representative Sally Simpson said she strives to get more students to recognize her volunteer squad.
“All the Walk Smart volunteers wear yellow,” said Simpson. “We have the intention to stand out.”
Walk Smart is a free service provided at Fennell Campus for students, staff, and faculty. Volunteers are available for walks to cars, bus stops or homes in the surrounding community.
Beginning the week of Sept. 24, the Mohawk College community is encouraged both to volunteer as “walkers” and to request the assistance of a “walker” group into the evening if needed.
The pilot program that became Walk Smart began in 1994 as a way to prevent violence against women in post-secondary institutions.
It has since remained a valuable asset to members of the college who may be in need of escorts or simply a couple of companions to talk to at the end of the night.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” said student Gimhana Fernando. “It’s always nice to have someone for support and someone just to talk to so you don’t feel as lonely when you’re walking by yourself in the middle of the night.”
Simpson says she is pleased with the student and staff response to the program but wants to make sure more people on campus know that it exists and is available to them.
“Walk Smart has been very well received over the years,” said Simpson. “We have an average of 60 volunteers and an average of 400 walks a semester.”
Volunteers do not necessarily go through a screening process, but they must fill out a volunteer contract and abide by the rules of a walk smart volunteer.
Non-students are not allowed to participate.
“Only students of the college can participate in the program,” said Simpson. “The Walk Smart volunteers always work in teams, this is for everyone’s safety.”
Smart Walk volunteer Akanksha Lamba pointed out there are benefits to becoming a volunteer.
“We organize different games in the college, have popcorn nights and occasional pizza parties,” Lamba said. “The Walk Smart leaders are great motivators and there is even Walk Smart volunteer of the month.”
Students can sign up on mohawkcollege.ca/walksmart to become a volunteer or stop by the Walk Smart office for more information.
Walk Smart service runs Mondays to Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.