City Hall

11-Year-Old Creates Homemade Safety Signs for Neighborhood

Jude Varieur slowed cars down with his homework project

Jude Varieur had a homework assignment -- address a community need.

He created 25 bright yellow safety signs reading "Slow" and "Drive Like Your Kids Live Here" that now line Nutwood Street in Fullerton.

11-year-old Jude's home school project was for "kids to be safe in their own neighborhood."

"For years there have been speed issues," said neighbor Cindy Gonzales.

Gonzales had a dog and a cat killed due to reckless driving on her street. She added that the street is long, without speed bumps, and a thoroughfare for a nearby elementary school, with tons of kids walking and skateboarding.

The Varieur family echoed her sentiments.

Acknowledging the problem, Jude reached out to City Hall and spoke with the traffic engineering analyst. The city put a speed measuring strip on the street. Cars, on average, drove 7 mph over the speed limit, which is 1 mph short of meriting a speed bump.

Then, he went to the police department. They put an electronic speed reader on the street that flashed lights whenever cars exceeded the speed limit. But, this was only temporary.

So Jude took matters into his own hands by setting out to create street signs of his own. He sent out surveys asking neighbors whether or not they would like safety signs. They could respond via email or by dropping completed surveys in a ballot box in front of Jude's house. Most said yes, according to Jude.

"He's an innovative kid. He's a people's person in all sorts of environments," said mother Laurelin Varieur. "He's the kind of kid who isn't satisfied for very long with doing just regular kid things. He's always pushing the envelope."

"He's a model citizen," said Gonzales.

Jude negotiated with Home Depot and Dunn Edwards to help him with the project. They donated materials for Jude's project and a Home Depot employee made a prototype sign for Jude.

"At first it was frightening talking to people I didn't know super well. But then it became easy," said Jude. "I was highly encouraged by everybody."

Jude wrote "sign making party" on the prototype sign to attract community help. He estimated 15 people came out to help, many multiple times. Some put in up to 20 hours.

Jude said he worked for 50 hours on the signs.

Jude's mom said the project brought out the community spirit that she typically sees during bloc parties and holiday celebrations.

"It was easy for people to get on board," she said.

"I first got involved because I like hanging around with my grandson," said grandfather Mike McNichols. "It required Jude to go way beyond a kid's pay grade and a lot of courage and innovation."

The Varieur family claimed that the signs have definitely made the street safer. Jude does not plan on taking down the signs anytime soon.

Father Darren Varieur hopes that one day the kids can play hockey out on the street.

"It's a lot easier to cross the street now," said 9-year-old brother Jack, who helped sand the sign boards. "His project helped me think that maybe I could do something like that."

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