This year, Alameda County’s Safe Routes to Schools high school program selected two leaders from each of our six schools to serve as representatives of their school on a countywide council. The Safe Routes Fellows meet monthly to discuss their work organizing events like Bike to School Day and carrying out projects like implementing a Carpool Parking Lot at their schools.
Fellows lift the high school program to new heights by sharing best practices, then bringing this excitement to their schools to engage a larger number of students in using shared and active transportation to travel to and from school. Their goals include serving as ambassadors for the Safe Routes program and increasing use of social media to engage students in Safe Routes activities.
In late May, the Safe Routes Fellows took their work up a notch, traveling to Sacramento to participate in a statewide convening of youth who are also focusing their work on creating sustainable communities – through transportation, food access, and improving education for California youth. Organized by the California Center for Civic Participation, the three-day conference brought together active youth from communities across the state, including Fresno, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Olympia. They created vision statements, policy platforms, and concise presentations about their work.
The culmination of the trip were legislative visits with their local representatives and experts in their content area, including staff from Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblywoman Buchanan, Senate Majority Leader Corbett, and Assemblyman Gatto’s offices. They shared common challenges they face on their commute and their vision for complete streets and safer routes, and asked that representatives support AB 1194 – a bill sponsored by the Safe Routes partnership and TransForm to maintain Safe Routes to School as an independent program in the Governor’s upcoming budget, with dedicated funds of $46 million annually. Most legislators were supportive of their request.
Overall, the trip was a success both personally and professionally. Students developed friendships with active youth from across the state, gained a statewide perspective on their work, and will continue to advocate for Safe Routes to their schools and within their communities. We look forward to continuing our work with the California Center this fall.