Introducing Ohio’s Safe Routes To School Advocacy Organizer: Commitment to Community
Growing up in Berea, Ohio, I walked to school, played outside and rode my bike in our part of the Cleveland Metro Parks. My love of the outdoors and community service started there during elementary school –a park cleanup and stream restoration in the 5th grade showed me how people can make positive changes in their community.
As the Ohio advocacy organizer for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, I find their mission and purpose encompasses the things I was interested in then, and find most rewarding now: improving my community, helping others, enjoying the outdoors and staying active.
I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Natural Resources Management, and my environmental and communications interests led me to the recycling, litter prevention and solid waste arena, in the private sector and in local and state government. I found my calling working for communities and the people in them. For 10 years I refined my skills in project management, grants writing and administration, media and public relations, public presentations, graphic design and document writing and development.
In 2003, I left the work force to stay home with my daughter, but was determined to remain active in my community. While volunteering on a City of Gahanna recycling committee, I was introduced to their Department of Parks & Recreation, and in 2006 was hired as their first Public Information Coordinator. In addition to the public outreach and media relations responsibilities, I assisted in writing grants for recreational trails, and served on the Gahanna Bicycle Advisory Committee.
It was here I was introduced to Safe Routes to School. Gahanna needed a coordinator to implement their 2008 school travel plan application for four schools, and I have been hooked ever since. After approval of our school travel plans, I assisted writing infrastructure and non-infrastructure applications, worked with schools for Walk and Bike to School Days and Bike Rodeo education programs, and have spoken at the local, state and national levels about why and how to implement local Safe Routes to School programs.
It’s the “why” that is so important. The health implications of childhood obesity on my daughter’s generation are alarming. I know the value in having access to recreation and physical activity through shared use of public space, which now is not always available to people.
As I expand my knowledge of Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets policies and joint-use programs in Ohio, I will share it with you. Contact me to join the Ohio network list, learn about these initiatives, ask questions and share your stories!