Asbury Park is a walking school district which means that all children that attend one of the three elementary schools walk to school every day. But once a month, on a Wednesday, that ordinary walk to school becomes a celebration and a time to recognize the value and importance of walking and biking as a lifelong way to stay fit.
“We begin to develop lifelong habits as children,” said Lisa Lee, school health council coordinator for the Monmouth County Health Department. “Walk-to School Wednesday is a way to create excitement about walking and biking so kids can start forming healthy habits now that will have an impact for the rest of their lives.”
This is the first year for Walk-to-School Wednesday in Asbury Park, but based on the success of the first month, they are destined to become part of the School Health Council’s strategy to increase fitness.
At Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, Walk-to School Wednesday kicked off on October 8 with a National Walk to School Day event. Students and their parents were greeted by Asbury Park Mayor Myra Campbell and “Hopscotch the Rabbit” from Meridian Healthcare, a character mascot that promotes physical activity. They were flanked by Principal Mark Gerbino, Vice Principal William Wells — the administrative facilitator on the School Health Council — teachers and security staff and Sergeant Terry Williams and patrol officers. Children received fruit roll ups and glow in the dark bracelets courtesy of Brenda Carter, the Safe Routes to School representative.
“We couldn’t have dreamed a better day. The community really rallied around the kick-off,” said Lee. “It was a great way to meet parents too and let them know what we will be doing in the future to promote fitness and more fruits and veggies as a healthy way to eat!”
Not to be outdone, Bradley Elementary and Barack Obama Elementary schools also initiated Walk-to-School Wednesday in October. All three schools now have Wellness Councils, advisory groups concerned with the health and well-being of students, staff and the school community. With the engagement of the School Wellness Councils, Lee sees momentum picking up and says each school has plans on the horizon: in addition to Walk-to-School Wednesday, changes are being made in the Bradley Elementary cafeteria to promote healthier alternative snacks. Thurgood Marshall Elementary is planning a bike rodeo for November.
The work is funded in part through a Healthy Community mini-grant from ShapingNJ and New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids. The Community YMCA and Monmouth Department of Health partner with the schools on wellness initiatives.SHARE: