SafeWalk SEU prepares to resume escorted walks, golf cart rides with changes due to COVID-19


Jazel Pineda

Denise Mares and Samuel Barrios are two drivers for SafeWalkSEU. Due to COVID-19, volunteers are required to wear masks and riders face away from them in the golf carts.

 As of Monday, Nov. 2, the student-led program SafeWalk SEU has resumed escorted walks and golf cart rides to students, faculty and staff members around campus. The program, which runs Monday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., will take safety precautions against COVID-19. Student coordinator Lauren Louk and Associate Vice President of University Operations Jim Morris discussed the steps the program will take in preparation to continue services.

SafeWalk SEU coordinators had intended for the spring 2020 semester to be a trial run for the new program, which was introduced after the #YourMoveSEU movement of last December, but because of COVID-19, the pilot semester was cut short. Even after a short trial, the program saw many clients. According to the program’s Spring 2020 report, in the approximately one-month trial run, SafeWalk SEU volunteers gave 74 rides and transported 98 riders. Their average response time was 2.89 minutes and the riders gave an average safety rating of 4.7 out of 5. 

Louk, a senior business administration major and program coordinator, is excited to get SafeWalk up and running again. She discussed challenges facing the reopening of the program, the first and most obvious one being how to keep both volunteers and riders safe from exposure during COVID-19. 

“We’re going to cut down on the number of people on the golf cart to where the drivers would be on the front and the riders on the back facing away from them,” Louk said.

SafeWalk volunteers are also cleaning the golf carts between each use, providing hand sanitizer and requiring masks. The other challenge the program faces is the reduced number of volunteers. Louk said that about half of the volunteers from the pilot run were seniors who have graduated and left St. Edward’s. The other half is split between returning volunteers and people who would return to volunteer but are living off-campus. While the split between on-campus and off-campus living means SafeWalk SEU is anticipating fewer calls than in the pilot run, they still need many more volunteers to get SafeWalk back to capacity.

Morris, who serves as the faculty advisor for the program, discussed the expectations the program and its coordinators have for operating in the spring 2021 semester. “Next semester, we plan to start in a similar manner when classes resume. From there, as activities ramp up, we will likely expand our hours and days of service,” he said. 

As SafeWalk’s first day of resuming their services approaches, coordinators are looking for individuals willing to serve as a student escort or dispatcher. The multistep process begins with filling out an application. Once received, applicants will be vetted by Louk and Morris, and will review the applicant’s standing with the university, conduct a criminal background check and a driver’s record check. Once applicants move forward with the process, they will receive golf cart training and situational awareness training.