4911 20th Place Southwest, Naples, FL
COLLIER COUNTY — Rosario Garcia, 9, and her brother Daniel, 8, walk their little brother to Golden Gate Elementary School’s primary campus before walking to the intermediate campus every day.
Rosario leads the way up 20th Place Southwest and throws her arm out in front of Daniel as he tries to cross when a car approaches their intersection.
“You have to always stop at the sidewalk,” she said. “Don’t stop in the middle of the road.”
But her little brother said knows that much.
“Stop and look to both sides because cars can come,” he said.
Those kinds of safety tips are one of the biggest lessons local school officials have hoped their students have learned. At a school like Golden Gate Elementary, which does not have buses dropping students off, that lesson is even more important.
Safety was the focus as schools across Collier County and the world celebrated International Walk to School Day on Wednesday morning.
The Partnership for a Walkable America began Walk to School Day in 1997 in Chicago. The event’s aim is to bring community leaders and children together to create awareness of the need for communities to be walkable. By 2002, children, parents, teachers and community leaders in all 50 states joined nearly 3 million walkers around the world to celebrate International Walk to School Day.
As students headed to Golden Gate Elementary School, volunteers from the Golden Gate Kiwanis Club handed out backpacks filled with coloring books, stickers and safety information for walking or riding a bike to school. One of those volunteers was former principal Daryl Mattison, who retired from his post at Golden Gate Elementary School two years ago. He eagerly hugged his former students and teachers as they went into school.
Golden Gate Elementary School is one of the only schools in the district that does not have buses. Students either walk, ride their bikes or get a ride from their parents, according to Principal Marilou Andrews.
“We have really been promoting this and I notice more kids are walking to school today. I think the backpack is a big incentive,” she said.
Andrews said Golden Gate Elementary School has been telling its students that walkers and bicyclists needs to stay safe when they are on the roads. They also stress that it is a good way to get exercise and is environmentally friendly.
“They live close enough to school to walk or ride a bike. Some of our families are financially in trouble and having money to buy gas is an issue,” she said. “But we can teach them that walking places is good because they are conserving gas, which helps the earth.”
That point resonated with third-grader Andres Alvarez, 8, who walked his bike onto the school grounds.
“I am trying to save some energy. I am not wastying electricity or gas or trees,” he announced as he walked into school.
Andres said being part of a school community where everyone walks or rides a bike means “we’re the only ones saving energy.”
But the site of cars in the parking lot also told him that not everyone was green at the school yet.
“Cars are boring, but this is neat and healthy for you,” he said, pointing towards his bike.