Many students don't give much thought about how they get to school.
Arriving on time, or being able to show up at all is a daily struggle for many
Rockford families who live too close to school to receive transportation. Luckily,
five years ago local organizations including the YMCA of Rock River Valley,
United Way, and the Winnebago County Health Department came together to launch
the Walking School Bus to ensure that all the kids had their own
The Walking School Bus is a program dedicated to
getting local elementary students to class safely and on time. It is simply
explained by Rebecca Nunes, the Chair of the Youth Development Branch Advisory
Board at the YMCA, “These little kids live too close to the school to be
included on the bus route, but many of them live in dangerous neighborhoods or don't
always have guardians available to walk them safely to school. The Walking
School Bus and its volunteers created a route to stop and pick up kids on the
way into school.” While the concept seems like a small thing, the impact
Walking School Bus has had on the collective community is profound.
“You think it's just walking kids to school, but
it’s so much more than that,” said Tonya Lewers, the 21st Century Coordinator
and Walking School Bus director at the YMCA. The Walking School Bus not only ensures
that kids arrive to school safely, it gives the kids something to look forward
to and allows for positive mentorship relationships to be built with the staff.
“Just being there for the kids to help them start the day off, they come to
depend on us. They want us to be there, they're looking for us,” Lewers said. The
Walking School Bus has catered to Lewis Lemon and Ellis elementary schools for the past five years, and
this year the program will extend its reach to Constance Lane Elementary
School when it opens this fall.
The Walking School Bus has not only allowed for
students to be positively affected, it has created an avenue for the schools to
develop further ties with the community and its students. The schools’
collaboration with the Walking School Bus has decreased truancy and tardiness
rates among students in Walking School Bus neighborhoods.
As we head into the 2019-2020 school year, the
Walking School Bus organizers want to increase engagement and add more people
to their team. “I have team members who are so passionate about this and so
passionate about kids, that they just jump right in,” Lewers said. A truly
amazing aspect of the Walking School Bus is that just one person's time can
create a lasting impact on the youth of our community. If you are interested please
contact Tonya Lewers at email@example.com.
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Congratulations to the following high school seniors!
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