NEWS & HIGHLIGHTS
IWalk Focus on Hispanics
Oct. 8th was International Walk and Roll to School Day. For about 7,000 kids in Marin, that meant hoofing it that morning. For the commuters, it translated into 21 percent less traffic. And for the Transportation Authority of Marin, the date marks the beginning of a new challenge: How to get more Hispanic children to walk or roll?
The event on Oct. 8th is organized by Safe Routes to School, a program of the Transportation Authority of Marin that for the last 14 years has encouraged children to walk and bike to school in Marin. During that time, the number of schools participating in its program has increased from nine to 50. The majority of the students are white from mostly affluent neighborhoods and their main purpose when joining is to protect the environment. Now, Safe Routes thinks it is time to shift gears to entice schools in Latino areas to participate in the program. To break through, the organization needs to tackle safety and health issues, two topics that Hispanics would like to zero in on first.
Some of the disadvantaged schools have a large majority of students already walking to school, but also have serious safety issues that need to be attended, Problems include lack of crossing guards, broken sidewalks, and insufficient street signs. To face such challenges, Safe Routes is already working with the community partners, and San Rafael and Novato Police Departments, Public Works, and the School Districts.
At the same time, Safe Routes is already addressing childhood obesity in the Latino population, which far outpaces the rates of other groups in Marin. For this reason, the non-profit is partnering with the County Health Department to improve nutrition and physical activity in those schools.
Slowly but surely, some mostly-Hispanic schools are starting to join the program. One of them is Venetia Valley in San Rafael, which has been holding their “Walk and Roll Wednesdays” for the last four weeks. Parent volunteers are hosting a sizable event on Oct. 8th, featuring three groups of adults and children walking from their homes, in different points along the neighborhood, to the school. The enthusiasm towards the new program is visible there.
“Our purpose is to keep our children healthy physically and mentally. By making this a priority we also contribute to the creation of healthy habits for the whole family and bonding while walking to school,” said Torhalla Dabalos, a volunteer team leader and mother of two students at Venetia Valley. She hopes that the implementation of the program will reduce the traffic in the morning and will help build a community that watches out for the little ones on their way to school.
Claudia Garcia, also a parent volunteer and mother of a student at Venetia Valley, has noticed that after their walk, kids arrive happier, with a sharper mind, and full of energy.
KangaDo. An App for You
We are excited to announce a new partnership with a commercial app called KangaDo that will help our school volunteers organize and strengthen walking and biking groups in their schools, as well as carpools and bus buddies. KangaDo is an app for Iphone and Android that allows parents to organize their children’s activities. The designers have developed schools and Safe Routes to School specific programs within the app for free. These allow parents to organize SchoolPools and to communicate with their members on a regular basis. This give us an opportunity to not only organize walking and biking groups for our Walk and Roll Wednesdays but to continue to communicate to ensure ongoing participation. To view more information go to www.kangadoapp.com