Every year one school in the country is recognized for its implementation and outstanding achievement in creating safe routes and programs enabling and encouraging students to walk or ride their bikes to school with the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award. This year it was Alpine Elementary School.
Schools apply each year by submitting applications to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, where a panel of experts representing organizations that promote safe walking and bicycling evaluate each application and choose a recipient.
The award is named for Congressman Oberstar of Minnesota, who sponsored legislation in order to create safe conditions so that more parents and children are able to safely walk and bicycle to school.
Wednesday was proclaimed as a "Walk to School Day" for students and faculty of Alpine Elementary. Student council members handed out treats to those walking. At 8:45 a.m. there was a ribbon-cutting presentation by the Utah Department of Transportation for a completed walkway provided by a UDOT grant, awarded to Alpine Elementary. At 9:45 a.m., the Oberstar Award presentation and UDOT Snap Assembly was held.
Conducted by the Student Council, the program included a message from Alpine Mayor Otis Hunt Willoughby, followed by the guest speaker, James Christian, from the Federal Highway Administration.
Christian explained the motivation behind the award.
"Today most children do not walk to school," he said. "The Federal Highway Administration wants to help come up with safe ways to help children walk, ride their scooters or bike to school. It is the healthy way to get around, it saves gas and helps cut down on the amount of pollution in our air." He went on to encourage the students to continue their efforts by challenging them to walk, ride their scooter or bike to school at least once.
Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School, presented the award to Alpine Elementary Principal Cami Larsen. Marchetti praised the students and staff for their efforts and example.
"When deciding who receives this award, we are looking for schools and students who will inspire other students and schools," she said. "Not only do you have bike trails, sidewalks, solar-powered speed limit signs, walking school buses and bike trains, you are also trying to help a sister school in Kenya. Thank you, Principal Larsen and school, for inspiring the rest of the country."
In the UDOT Snap Assembly the students were entertained and taught walking and riding safety by a group of performers who danced to and sang songs about safety.
Attending the events were Christine Kearl, the Utah State education director, Roland Stranger from the Federal Highway Administration and Scott Jones and Cherissa Wood from UDOT. Guests from The National Center for Safe Routes to School included Marchetti and Caroline Dickson, communications and marketing manager.
Alpine student Corinne Archibald told about her reaction to the events of the day and the safety programs Alpine Elementary has implemented.
"I just moved here last summer and we did nothing like this at our school," she said. "It is just nice to know we can walk to school knowing that we're going to be OK and our parents also know that we are going to be safe."