Nation’s only daily walking school bus celebrates International Walk to School Day
- Published on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:41
Program Coordinator Denice Smith leads students on the walking bus to Lewis Lemon Elementary School.
(Rockford, Ill. - 10/08/2014) – Members of the Rockford Walking School Bus program held festivities for neighborhood families this morning in celebration of International Walk to School Day. The program, which is the only daily, adult-supervised walking school bus in the country, provides a safe-walking passage for students attending Lewis Lemon Elementary School, and enables children to incorporate regular physical activity into their lifestyle. Officials also announced plans for a second walking school bus route in Rockford Public Schools District #205 at Ellis Elementary School.
"We are thrilled to be able to strengthen our community by helping to promote healthier lifestyles and safer streets for our youth," says Tabatha Endres-Cruz, Executive Director, Community Outreach YMCA of Rock River Valley.
In the U.S., International Walk to School Day (www.walktoschool.org) began in 1997 and is expected to include more than 4,000 events across all 50 states. Walkers from the U.S. will join children and adults in 40 countries around the world. Walk to School events work to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community.
Now in its second year, the Rockford Walking School Bus program was designed to provide children within a mile and half of Lewis Lemon School a safe route to school, and to cut truancy and tardiness rates. In its first year, the program decreased tardiness by 52% among participating students in first grade – fifth grade. Program staff also has begun to incorporate what is being taught in the school into their daily discussions along the route.
"The Rockford Walking School Bus has brought the community closer. Residents will make an extra effort to clear snow in front of abandoned homes and they keep an eye out for anything unusual along the route. There is nothing like children to change the mind of an adult, especially parents," says Endres-Cruz.
The Rockford Walking School Bus program is a partnership between the Rockford Housing Authority, United Way of Rock River Valley, Winnebago County Health Department, YMCA of Rock River Valley, and Youth Services Network. The route begins at Rockford Housing Authority's Fairgrounds Valley, and heads west through local neighborhoods to Lewis Lemon Elementary School. The program is also part of United Way's new Strong Neighborhoods initiative, which is a place-based strategy to improve the quality of life for children and families living in Ellis Heights and Midtown District neighborhoods, because strong neighborhoods make a strong community.
"Our community challenges are deep but no matter the amount of obstacles, every neighborhood has existing strengths and assets," said Paul A. Logli, CEO/President, United Way of Rock River Valley. "Working alongside neighborhood leaders, good parents, wise grandparents, dedicated teachers, and local businesses, United Way will build upon those existing assets in the neighborhoods."
United Way of Rock River Valley
United Way of Rock River Valley advances the common good in Winnebago and Ogle counties, creating opportunities for a better life by focusing on education, income, and health. United Way recruits people and organizations that bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. LIVE UNITED® is a call to action for everyone to become a part of the change.