CHICAGO — As students from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) prepare to head back to class, Mayor Brandon Johnson is putting the spotlight on the workers who help them get there safely.

On Tuesday, a rally was held for the district’s nearly 1,200 Safe Passage workers.

The workers are employed by community-based organizations that operate in the areas that they serve. They are trained and serve as the eyes and ears in the neighborhoods to keep tabs on any potential violence.

“By establishing bonds with our students and ensuring their safety on their way to school and back, the Safe Passage workers are building stronger communities one student at a time,” Mayor Johnson said.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez says that he believes the program is the first step in getting kids to school on time and securely.

“You are doing God’s work. You’re making sure the children go to school every single day,” Martinez said.

Despite the district’s best efforts, gun violence is something some CPS students have seen or experienced all too well.

In December of 2022, 15-year-old Kevin Davis was shot and killed just after leaving Michele Clark Magnet High School.

In October of 2018, a Safe Passage worker was shot in the back just after 8 a.m. as kids were heading to school at Duke Ellington Elementary. Police said the worker was an unintended target and suffered non-life-threatening wounds.

During Tuesday’s rally, Mayor Johnson, a former teacher, said the whole city owes the Safe Passage workers a big thanks.

“As the father of three CPS students, I’m grateful for the work they do to provide positive role models for our students while keeping them safe,” Mayor Johnson said.

Established in 2009 with 35 schools, the Safe Passage program now serves 188 schools and more than 78,000 students across the city.