Familiar face offers smile, guidance to downtown Phoenix community

Michael Corroo spends his afternoons and evenings working as a Downtown Phoenix Ambassador, offering information and assistance to anyone in need. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

He stands out in his bright, burnt orange polo and khaki shorts. A large “Ask Me!” button is pinned on his shirt in clear view. He stands tall, over most of the crowd, with long wavy locks of brown hair making him stand out even more.

As a Downtown Phoenix Ambassador, Michael Corroo spends his afternoons and evenings in downtown Phoenix talking to people and answering questions.

Standing out and providing support for the people in the community is all a part of the job.

For three years, Corroo, a single dad of two, has worked for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, the nonprofit downtown Phoenix development agency that commissions the ambassador program.

“We do whatever we can to make downtown a good experience for people,” he said.

Corroo is often assigned the area surrounding the Downtown campus in the evenings. He always offers a friendly smile and “hello” to students who pass by.

Lynn Carroll, the evening supervisor for the ambassadors, said that all the students know him, even the new ones. They often call him “Jesus,” because of his hair.

“He has a warm smile and is very friendly,” Carroll said. “The students just love him. He’s a genuine person.”

The ambassadors also provide an escort service, called Pal Around, available daily until 11 p.m. Corroo has walked Jackie Young, a library assistant at the Downtown campus, to her home on Fourth Avenue and McKinley Street since January 2010.

“I really appreciate what the ambassadors do for me,” said Young, adding that she uses the escort service four times a week. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to walk home from work.”

This summer, Corroo went “above and beyond the call of duty,” Young said. He walked her home when the first haboob of the season hit in July.

Young said she couldn’t see anything except his orange shirt as the dust descended upon them.

“He knew that I depended on it, so he braved it,” Young said.

Corroo said he and the rest of the ambassadors are on hand to help with anything downtown visitors or residents need. They will help get keys out of locked cars, fix a bike or just tell visitors where the best places to eat are, he said.

“We try to keep people downtown,” Corroo said. “That’s our mission.”

Many students living in Taylor Place have heard of the ambassadors and have seen them around campus. One of the services they offer, Ollie the Trolley, drives right past Taylor Place on its regular route on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“I have used Ollie the Trolley to get to places at night on the weekend because I didn’t want to walk,” said Lisa Klein, a nursing sophomore living in Taylor Place. “I feel better knowing that I don’t have to walk all alone at night.”

However, Klein, like others living in Taylor Place, was unaware of many of the services offered by the ambassadors.

In addition to being an ambassador, Corroo is the busy father of two active boys. He goes on school field trips, brings them downtown for sporting events and enjoys fixing up bikes for his sons and other neighborhood kids.

Even on field trips and at school events, Corroo said parents come up to him and ask for recommendations of things to do or restaurants to eat at downtown.

“Never hesitate to ask,” Corroo said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Contact the reporter at jncrane@asu.edu