MOUNT VERNON — Students across Mount Vernon walked to school today as a part of International Walk to School Day. Teachers, parents and principals assisted students in crossing streets and busy roadways of the city. And although not all students reside close enough to walk, children who were dropped off or road the bus were allowed to meet at designated areas to participate in the annual event.
Mount Vernon Middle School teacher Marcia Orsborn said she was excited to learn about the walk to school day.
“We wanted to get the kids involved,” she said.
Orsborn said some students were reluctant to walk because of the location of their home, so Orsborn and fellow teacher Sherry Murphy met a team of students at Phillips Park this morning and walked with them to school. Other teachers from the middle school met students at Memorial Park.
“Overall, this is very important for kids for the health advantages of walking,” said Orsborn, adding that she hopes this will encourage youths who can walk to school to do so more often, and those who can’t, to stay active through physical activities.
Pleasant Street Elementary, Dan Emmett Elementary, and East School were also involved.
“We are going to have two walks for the students that are bus riders or their parents drive them in,” said Dirk Parker, student and family advocate for Pleasant Street Elementary School. “Mrs. Boylan, our principal, met a group of kids at the corner of Pleasant Street and Gay Street, and I met a group of kids at Pleasant Street and Sychar Street; we will walk about three to four blocks.”
“This is just to give the kids an opportunity to participate in the program and win some of the prizes that are available,” said Parker. “With [a grant the city received], they will be giving out one prize per school. The child at the school will have the choice between a bicycle, iPod or a Nintendo DS.”
Following the event, parents and students were asked to fill out a survey about safe ways to walk to school.
“The city will collect them and the engineering department is going to put together safe routes to school,” said Parker, adding that the goal is for each student to have a daily opportunity to walk to school.
This is very important, he said, because so many parents drive their children to school and as a result, there is a lot of traffic congestion.
Parker received over 100 permission slips for students to participate.
“I had a lot of students come to me [beforehand], real excited and fired up,” he said.
At the beginning of the school year, Pleasant Street Elementary launched a walking program called Walk to Hollywood for students during recess.
“During the beginning of the year I noticed a bunch of fifth-grade girls at recess just sitting on the steps not doing anything. So I talked to them about how we could get them up and moving, and together ... we talked about starting a walking club. So we had our custodian put a path in the grass all the way around the playground and the back football field,” said Parker. “If you walk that path twice, it’s a mile.
“So everyday, students would walk along the half-mile path, making their way to Hollywood, Calif. We have a map in the lobby and we are charting our progress, and each Wednesday we have a featured walker,” he continued. “A huge event for us was when Mayor Mavis came in on Sept. 28 and was our guest walker — Mr. and Mrs. Mavis. We had 360 kids and teachers walk a mile that day, and that was the kickoff to this walk to school program. And it just happened to coincide with this event; we thought how much this would be great to talk with the kids about walk to school day.”
The students are now 360 miles closer to Hollywood.
This is the first year Pleasant Street has participated in International Walk to School Day, but Parker said he believes it will be an event that will continue.
“We hope that this won’t just be a one day thing. We hope that the kids will realize that they can walk together as a group, and once the city gives us some safe routes, that will also help promote the kids walking to school more often,” he said.
“I think there is a misperception that it’s not safe to walk to school; if you do it correctly and walk safe routes and in a group, it can be safe,” said Parker. “For Pleasant Street this is another positive behavior support, and we like to have different programs that are proactive as far as learning and being healthy.”