MADISON, Wis. — Moms and honorary moms show up for kids during Madison East High School’s lunch period.
Every day at 12:03 p.m., students swarm out of East, and head toward the intersection of East Johnson and 4th Streets. A group of moms will greet them outside the James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
The main draw for kids is the snacks. The moms have a table stocked with chips, granola bars, fruit snacks and bottled water.
“That’s how we were able to connect with them. Food is the quickest way to especially a teenager’s heart,” laughed mom Noelle Brusky.
The snacks are really just the entry point. The moms are part of the group Moms On a Mission. They supervise students during off-campus lunch. The group began after a fight at East in 2021.
“My kid called me and said he didn’t feel safe,” Brusky said of that 2021 incident. “The next day we had a couple of moms here, and we just kept going.”
They came up with the name Moms On a Mission, conveniently abbreviated to MOMs. Their goal is to maintain a safe environment off school property and prevent violence among students.
The moms get to know the students and are able to step in when there’s an issue.
“I’m a typical mom. I just don’t want the kids to hurt each other,” Brusky said. “I’ll just immediately kind of put myself in the middle.”
Group member Mike Bernhard has seen it for himself.
“When there’s an issue, the moms go out to settle it,” Bernhard said. “When they get together, they look sort of like the defensive line of the Green Bay Packers, making sure everybody moves out of the way, moves back, and is safe.”
They’re also watching traffic at the busy intersection. There are no stop signs or stoplights, and moms often spot people speeding.
Their biggest challenge was last month, when sophomore Kyesha Miller was shot and killed. Students were struggling. It’s hard for anyone to process grief, but it can be especially hard for young people.
The moms knew Miller well. Brusky remembered her having perfect choreography when she filmed TikToks during the lunch period.
After she died, the moms spent extra time with students to help them grieve. They had a balloon release, and James Reeb allowed them to use their space. Students could come in and stay silent and color with crayons, if that was comforting to them.
“They’re trying to battle emotions that they don’t even know. They shouldn’t even know how to process that type of senseless violence,” Brusky said.
Students said they feel safe with Moms On a Mission because the moms have been there, day in and day out, for years now.
“I love our kids,” Brusky said with a huge smile on her face. “I just love seeing them in their faces coming down, knowing that they’re going to get extra love and food in their bellies.”
But the organization said they could still use more funding to buy all the food and water. To help, click here.