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A bicycle commuter who rides four miles to work, five days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving and about 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

Rockford students picked up by new type of school bus

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The City of Rockford, Illinois has struggled to recover from many of the social and economic consequences of the recession and factors that preceded it, such as the decline of manufacturing and other important industries that had provided much of the life blood to the Rockford area.  

The Rockford public school systems have failed to meet state and national standards time and time again, while citizens of Rockford have faced some of the state’s highest levels of obesity and crime.

Located in Rockford, the YMCA of Rock River Valley is leading a community-wide movement to revitalize the greater Rockford region through providing people-based solutions and programs that address the common need.  

The Y in Rockford was established in 1858 to help address the needs of young men who were new to the urban environment and the problems they faced, such as addiction and homelessness. As the Y has evolved to serve a diverse group of men, women and children, we have developed programs that address the needs of our community today.  

One of these new programs is the “walking school bus.”  

The walking school bus provides a safe and active method of transportation for elementary students living in Rockford’s Ellis Heights neighborhood, which is one of the most economically hard-hit areas in northern Illinois. 

Prior to this initiative, many students living within a two-mile radius of their school had to walk themselves through streets that are often the scene of unfriendly situations for children, such as decrepit sidewalks, aggressive dogs and violence. 

Children registered for this free service are greeted at their homes by Y staff and community volunteers who provide a fun, safe and engaging route to school each morning.  

They make sure the students get to school safely and on time, always with time to get breakfast before school begins.

The walking school bus is a result of a strong partnership between the Y, the United Way of Rock River Valley and Rockford Housing Authority. 

As the greater Rockford community comes together to develop new ideas for both new and old problems, collaboration and alignment will be key to success.  

The YMCA of Rock River Valley is excited to be a new community partner in the Safe Routes for Healthy Kids Campaign, which is focused on improving Illinois Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School grant program that funds biking and walking projects across the state.

Learn more about the Safe Routes for Healthy Kids Campaign to increase funding for IDOT’s Safe Routes to School program and make administrative changes to make it easier for communities to apply. 

And you can sign onto the campaign here! Use the hashtag #SafeRoutesIL to share your story on social media. 

This is guest blog post written by Paul Nolley of the YMCA of Rock River Valley. 

Photo courtesy of the Rockford Register Star.