Belle Glade, Florida: Promoting wellness through Walk to School Day

Introduction

Unlike many of the surrounding schools, Gove Elementary in Belle Glade, FL, is confronted with unique challenges to implement its Safe Routes to School program. Gove Elementary is a Title 1 school in a rural area with many of its students coming from families of migrant workers. The constant influx and outflow of students can be challenging for teachers, staff and the students. Despite these challenges, Gove Elementary has achieved success in promoting safety and wellness both in the school and in the community.

Activities

In 2000, Gove Elementary received a $30,000 grant from two local foundations, the Blum Foundation and the Pew Foundation, to build a fitness area and walking trail. The trail was completed in 2002 and is used by Gove Elementary students, local sports teams, families and the surrounding community. Fueled by this success, Gove Elementary has continued efforts to promote wellness and safety in its community.

In 2000, the school held a Walk to School Day to kick off its Wellness Week. Since 2003, they have hosted two Walk to School Day events each year – one in the fall and one in the spring. The Palm Beach County Health Department and Palm Beach County Food Services were Gove Elementary’s first big partners; they provided incentives and volunteers for the event. Since then, participation has rapidly increased and the majority of students participated in this year’s fall Walk to School Day event. Gove Elementary staff participated along with community members from the city government and sheriff ’s and fire departments. To prepare for Walk to School Day, several measures are taken to ensure a safe and fun day for all participants. One month before Walk to School Day, pedestrian safety information is distributed to teachers. One week before, a school assembly is held during the students’ physical education class to discuss pedestrian safety. Parents receive a flyer sent home by the school detailing the events and schedule for the day.

The success of Walk to School Day created the hope of increasing participation in the other wellness projects. Now the event kicks off the school’s Wellness Week where they hold a Wellness Fair and a community walk. Both of these events attract hundreds of people.

The Wellness Fair has grown from seven booths in 2001 to more than 25 booths in 2007. This year, the Palm Beach Sheriff ’s Department provided bicycle safety information and distributed helmets to the students. More than 100 families in the Glades attended the event.

Gove Elementary hosts a community walk on the Saturday at the end of Wellness Week to promote exercise and safety. This year’s event was held at the Belle Glade Marina. Participants walked, jogged or bicycled on the one-, two- and three-mile trails. At this event, three “Heart of the Champion” awards were presented to the nonprofit organization, school or business that had the most participants.

The success of these events in part has been attributed to collaboration with a host of community partners, including organizations in the health, medical, law enforcement, fire, and education fields.

Milestones

Gove Elementary asked a local medical organization to partner with them for Wellness Week, and as a result, the organization awarded the school with $10,000 to continue its SRTS activities. Gove Elementary students also wrote letters and drew pictures, which were sent to the county commissioners as a reminder that the school needs help in creating opportunities for wellness among its families and at the schools.

Gove plans to build upon their past Wellness Week success by adding a third Walk to School Day to their calendar of events and expanding their Wellness Fair.

Since the implementation of SRTS activities, Gove Elementary officials have noticed an increase in children walking and bicycling to school. The bicycle racks, which often were unused, now have at least 10 bicycles parked in it on a daily basis. And the number of children walking to school has increased by 50 percent.

Contact

Ellen Smith Gove
Elementary 900 S.E. AVE G
Belle Glade, FL 33430
(561) 993-4042
smithell@palmbeach.k12.fl.us
www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us/GoveES/