Alexandria, VA

The crossing guards at Mount Vernon Community School are in love and they’re getting married.

Every school morning and afternoon, Essie Tarpley and Kalil Mason-Alphanso work their respective sections on opposite sides of the Del Ray elementary school. Each will high-five students, parents and teachers braving the early morning street crossings. Lately those early morning greetings have been congratulatory.

But that’s only because word just got out.

In fact, the couple have been engaged for about two years. Mason-Alphanso just finished his first year working as a crossing guard, while Tarpley has been a crossing guard at Mount Vernon for the last 15 years. When her fiancé moved from New York to live with her in Alexandria, she told him that there was a job opening in her unit.

“There’s a big building right between the two of us. But we work at the same place,” Mason-Alphanso told ALXnow. “It’s actually pretty awesome.”

The story goes that Tarpley and Mason-Alphanso met three years ago on the seventh day of an 11-day Carnival Journeys cruise in the Caribbean. There was a dance party that got a little rowdy for some of the aged guests trying to sleep, and it was announced that it had to be shut down. Tarpley approached the DJ to protest, since he was just starting to play the 90s music she loves, and that’s when Mason-Alphanso first saw her.

“I was just happy to see someone on the cruise that was my age,” he said. “Most of the time on those cruises it’s very young people and very old people, and no in-between. So we moved to another portion of the ship to go dancing to Latin music.”

The couple, who have not decided on a wedding date, also finish each other’s sentences.

“He asked me if I was good at dancing, and I said I was all right,” Tarpley said.

“I told her that I danced everything, and we got out there and she was more than all right,” Mason-Alphanso quickly interjected. “She shut me down.”

The pair were inseparable for the rest of the voyage.

Tarpley has a number of other jobs, including teaching Zumba at the YMCA on Monroe Avenue, and as a cafeteria hostess at Patrick Henry Elementary School.

The work can be stressful, and Tarpley takes it in stride.

“Everyone is trying to get somewhere and especially in the morning, nobody wants to start off their morning with attitude. No one wants to get yelled at first thing. So, we greet them with a smile and understand they’re trying to get somewhere,” she said. “I understand that I am stopping you… Give me a second and I’m going to get you on your way as quickly as I can while I save the lives of these children.”

“And the same thing goes for the kids,” she continued. “Sometimes the kids don’t feel like going to school and they’re just like, ‘Oh, this sucks. I have a test,’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, you woke up today, you got dressed, you’re here on time! You rock, you’re awesome, and great job mom and dad. You got the kids in school on time right before the door closed? Yes! Adulting properly is awesome. Everybody break out the confetti and just throw it. It’s a little victory.'”

Recently she was talking to some teachers at Mount Vernon about being a crossing guard.

“I’m like, ‘Well, my fiancé works on the other side,’ and it was a big shock.”

News spread and the couple soon started receiving congratulations from parents and students.

“They’re great,” said Mike Dameron, who walks his kids to Mount Vernon every school day. “It’s a perfect match. Everybody at Mount Vernon knows about them. It’s just really heartwarming when you hear of a love story in your small community.”

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