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Today, students from Hemphill Elementary School in Birmingham participated in a “walking school bus” in celebration of National Walk to School Day.
The event, which is one of over 5,000 events to take place nationwide, emphasizes the importance of safe routes to school and routine physical activity. The event is part of Hemphill’s ongoing safe routes to school program, which includes a weekly walking school bus.
“We have partnered with Hemphill Elementary School and United Way to bring a safety message to all of the kids and families about walking safely to school, how to walk safely in their neighborhood, and how to watch out for traffic to make sure they are watching for people who are driving distracted,” stated Leslie Brown, Safe Kids Coordinator, Children’s of Alabama.
The coalition of groups participating in the Walk to School Day included, Hemphill Elementary School, United Way of Central Alabama, Children’s of Alabama and Alabama Partners for Clean Air. City Councilwoman Shelia Tyson also spoke at the event.
The groups listed the following benefits walking to school provides for children, parents and the community.
Benefits for children:
- Participate in a physical activity as part of their day
- Learn more about their neighborhoods
- Learn what traffic signs mean and how to follow traffic rules
- Socialize with friends and get to know children of other ages
- Gain a sense of independence
- Arrive at school alert and ready to learn
Benefits for parents:
- Meet other families
- Enjoy physical activity before work
- Save gas required to drive to and from school
- Set positive and healthy example for your child and children from the neighborhood
Benefits for all:
- Travel with fewer cars on the road
- Live with less air pollution
- Gain a sense of community
- Learn that walking is a viable transportation option
Nick Sims, Vice President of Community Initiatives for United Way passionately described why walk to school programs are important.
“It’s important because these students at the school need to know how important they are and how important their lives are. They need to know what opportunities they have in this world. A lot of these volunteers are mentors along the route. What do you do when you walk? You talk to a friend, get to know each other. That’s part of what we do when we walk with these students. We mentor them, they make us laugh, we give them guidance, wish them a good day, it inspires both of us. Its a mutual aspect of community. We are here to support them.”