SafeRides club members pose after a daytime meeting. Photo courtesy Grace Zhang.
Each Saturday night at 9:30 p.m., student volunteers arrive at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, ready to spend the evening providing free rides home to other MIHS students.
According to SafeRides’ mission statement, the program “provides free, confidential, non-judgemental, safe rides home to youth who find themselves in unsafe situations.” When a teen is in need, they can call (206) 941-4100, and will be connected to a dispatcher.
Following a strict script, the dispatcher fills out a form that notes the caller’s current location, home address, phone number and current outfit for identification. No names are requested or recorded at any point in the process.
Using the dispatcher’s form, a navigator and a driver go pick up the caller. To ensure that everyone in the pick-up car feels comfortable, navigators and drivers must be opposite genders.
Each volunteer’s role is very important. Dispatchers provide a calm voice for callers; navigators check throughout the drive that their passenger is awake and feeling okay; drivers drop their passenger in front of the passenger’s own home, making sure that the passenger entered safely before leaving.
The SafeRides line officially opens at 10:00 p.m. — Safe Rides does not take reservations. At around 11:15 p.m., calls begin to roll in from students needing a ride home.
At 12:45 a.m. the team will not take anymore phone calls, unless agreed on by every volunteer and the adult supervisor. At 1:00 a.m., SafeRides closes for the night, and everyone heads home.
Students at MIHS are big fans of SafeRides.
“[The program] provides a safe opportunity to get a ride home when one isn’t easily accessible,” senior Taleah Levin said.
Confidentiality is key for the SafeRides program.
“We want students to feel comfortable calling SafeRides without the worry of other people finding out or judgement,” volunteer Libby Egan said.
Not only are students fans of SafeRides: the administration and teachers are big fans of it too.
“SafeRides is an awesome program for high school students,” Associate Principal Henterson Carlisle said.
“[SafeRides is] a safe alternative to driving if someone is impaired, tired or can’t drive for some reason. Students can get a ride home if they are somewhere where they do not want to be or don’t feel safe being there.”
If you’re ever stuck on the Island on a Saturday night, don’t be afraid to call (206) 941-4100.