Moving the National Partnership Forward

RisaWhen I see children walking to or from school, I notice their interactions. They talk, laugh, and maybe drop their bags to engage in a spontaneous race. They move in pairs or small pods. There’s a special kind of connection as they transition to school or home. It’s an image which brings me hope.

I realize, though, that I’m in a neighborhood where most children don’t worry about their safety or security.  As I’ve worked in the fields of active transportation and healthy communities for the last 15 years, I’ve grown painfully aware of the inequities for many children in this realm and am committed to changing that picture.

So, it’s been my privilege to have served as the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Steering Committee Chair for the past seven years and to now serve as Board Chair as the National Partnership transitions to become an independent non-profit organization and continues to advocate for safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, and in daily life, for all children. Together with many other collaborators, the National Partnership is in a strategic position to further advance policies and programs at all levels which will support the development of safe, accessible, walkable and bikeable communities across the nation.

Our Founder Deb Hubsmith has guided the National Partnership from inception nearly 10 years ago to this point of independence. She has championed the benefits of active transportation for two decades at local, regional, state, and national levels. She is a strong visionary who remains committed to the cause, even as she is on her medical leave recovering from acute myeloid leukemia. We are so grateful that Deb is doing well and on the road to recovery and she asked me to relay this message:

“The outpouring of cards and caring messages I have received from colleagues and friends since my surprise diagnosis have been such a powerful source of healing for me, thank you all so much. I would love for you to keep the positive thoughts coming; the next step in my treatment is a bone marrow transplant which will start this spring. As I focus on my recovery throughout 2014, I will continue to advocate for the health of children, schools and our communities as a board member.  I am so proud of what we have accomplished together so far and how the National Partnership is blossoming in this new phase of growth and influence. Each of you plays a key role in this very important movement which gets to the heart of the matter – a healthy future for our kids and communities. Thank you for the special part you play—it makes a difference.”

During this interim period, while Deb shares her wisdom, insights and passion with the board, I will also have the honor of serving as a strategic advisor for the National Partnership, focusing particularly on building a strong and dedicated board and helping to ensure the continued financial sustainability of the organization.

My confidence in the future is bolstered by the dedication and deep knowledge of the National Partnership staff. In the coming months, I look forward to collaborating closely with the organization’s leadership team.  Deputy Director Margo Pedroso will direct the organization while Deb is recovering. Margo has been with us since 2008 and we are fortunate to have her steady hand here. Our leadership team also includes Development and Marketing Director Beth Richards, Technical Assistance Director Sara Zimmerman and Finance Director Peter Kodzis, who will work with Margo to ensure the organization runs smoothly and engages with partners, parents, cities and schools to ensure that resources and policies at all levels support Safe Routes to School and healthy communities.  The board and I are fully confident that the combined talents of this leadership team will guide the National Partnership to continued success in 2014.

In closing, I’d like to personally thank PeopleForBikes for their unwavering support at the start and throughout the tremendous growth of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. They will continue to be our valued partner in this effort as we ensure that ALL children have the opportunity to talk, laugh and drop their bags for spontaneous races as they make their daily commute.

For information on where to send Deb cards and best wishes, click here.