Crossing guard Francine Petress, center, is joined by Pioneer Middle School students in Tustin on Wednesday, Dec 6, 2017 who started a GoFundMe page to raise money to replace Petress' car that was totaled in a traffic accident. Pictured, from left, are Nicole Chiem, Allyza Lugassy, Faith Aguilar, Francine Petress, Sneha Vankayalapati and Josie Wang. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

TUSTIN Pioneer Middle School crossing guard Francine Spatafora Petress is shorter than most of the children she chaperones. Regardless, she possesses the vim and the voice to keep the wiseacres in line.
On a recent afternoon, a dozen boys attempted to span busy Tustin Ranch Road at an unsupervised corner.
“Nope, nope! You do not cross there!” Petress roared from the other side.
They briefly put up an argument — grownups do it — then demurred and followed the rules.
“I may be only 5’1?, but I have a commanding presence,” the petite 72-year-old said. “I’m Italian, dear.”
Whatever her secret, kids clearly care about and respect Petress.
“She always talks to us and brings us doughnuts,” said Allyza Lugassy, 13. “And she is really determined to keep us safe.”
So when Petress showed up to work with a badly bruised face last fall, students were both alarmed and — after learning what happened — eager to help …
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