Walking to school, together
Children and parents at Sullivan Apartments took to the sidewalks recently to revive the Walking School Bus for its third consecutive year.
The crisp fall morning brought out nearly two dozen children and a few grown-ups, to hike the stretch from the public housing development on Nursery Street and up the hill on Stafford Street to the Boland Elementary School, where they began their working day.
The bus will continue through the academic year, with mothers Erica Colon and Sheena Springfield leading the way to ensure that children were safe and on time for their classes.
“We want to make sure that the children all get to school safely,” Colon said. “We all go up together. It’s fun and it’s good for them to have a little walk before they start their day.”
The Walking School Bus is organized by Talk/Read/Succeed!, an early literacy program in its seventh year, involving entire families in the process of reading, writing, doing well in school, and for the adults, gaining financial independence.
T/R/S! is a collaborate program underway at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens Apartments. Behind the effort are organizations including the SHA, the Springfield School Department and Boland and Dorman Elementary Schools, the Springfield Education Association, Behavioral Health Network, and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County.
The Walking School Bus is just one of the many initiatives that T/R/S! brings to participating families at the two SHA developments.
But it’s an important one.
“Children walking to school together, along with adults, is the best way to go,” said Lynne Cimino, T/R/S! Outreach Coordinator.
“Everybody is safe. Everybody gets to school on time. It’s fun, and it’s just good exercise. It wakes everyone up and gets them ready for a day of learning,” Cimino said.
Walking School Buses have been touted across the country as a way to promote health and boost school attendance. In fact, the Sullivan-to-Boland route is one of five in the city registered with the movement. The others are groups walking to and from Alice Beal, Brookings, Milton Bradley and Rebecca M. Johnson Elementary Schools.
The recent walk from Sullivan to Boland had its share of sleepy children as well as adults, but all were pumped to hike it up the hill.
“It’s fun walking to school together,” said nine-year-old Isiah Hernandez, who is in the third grade at Boland.
Destiny Garcia, also nine, agreed.
“This way we’re all together and we get there at the same time,” she noted.
Adults Erica Colon and Sheena Springer make the walk each day, along with any other Sullivan parents who wish to join them.
“It’s going to be a great school year,” Colon predicted.
It is estimated that about 13 percent of children in kindergarten through grade eight walk or ride bicycles to school and back. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership notes that walking one mile to and from school each day represents two-thirds of the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
Better yet, physical activity and fitness boost both memory and learning in children. Those who exercise regularly and are fit are shown to perform better on report cards, and on standardized tests.
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