Drive through the intersection of 26th Street and Island Avenue in Grant Hill any given weekday, and you’ll have a front-row seat to Albert Einstein Academy Charter Middle School’s commander of morning morale taking center stage—or lane.
His script is simple: Give high-fives and call upbeat lines like "Good morning!" "I got you covered. Come on." "Have a great day!" His prop? A stop sign.
Crossing guard is just one of the roles Moray Black plays as a member of AEA’s Student Support Team, but he approaches it with greater purpose than just stopping traffic.
"I’m one of the first faces kids see before heading to class. No matter what their night looked like or conversation in the car that upset them, I try to turn it around. That’s an amazing thing."
Black, 30, has worked with San Diego youth for over 10 years, including at the Mission Valley YMCA and as a student advocate at Monarch School. He’s been with AEA since October, primarily managing the school lunch program.
"The job posting had my name all over it, but it didn’t say anything about being a crossing guard," he recalls. "On my first day, they gave me a sign and said, ‘That’s your corner.’"
A typical workday begins with a brisk walk to AEA (Black lives in the neighborhood), then a stop by his office to drop off his backpack and pick up his sign. After waving to a few early arrivers, he heads up the Island Avenue hill to his post. From there, job one is getting students across the street safely from 7:30–8 a.m. After that, when he’s not fielding deliveries, supervising at recess, or cleaning up after lunch, he’s responding to calls on his walkie-talkie from teachers who need a classroom aide—"SST supports students in any shape, way, and form," Black explains.
Most of the school greets him as Mr. Mo, but some students call him Mr. Polo—every day, Black dons the Ralph Lauren line from head to toe. He picks out his outfits for the full workweek every Sunday, a practice his mom instilled in him as kid in Detroit.
As with his a.m. cheerfulness, there’s also a deeper meaning to his snappy wardrobe.
"I want to break some barriers," he says. "There aren’t a lot of males in education and, to get more in-depth, there aren’t a lot of African American males in education. When students see me, I’m both. Dressing like this makes me feel good and helps change that dynamic."