In its second school year as a Safe Routes to School focus school with Living Streets Alliance, Los Amigos Technology Academy has developed a Fitness Fridays initiative that is ever growing. Ms. Flores (School Librarian and School Wellness Team Member) and Vanessa Cascio (LSA Community Liaison) worked together to encourage a culture of health in the school from introducing bike rides and walks to school to bike repair clinics. They gained support from the school principal, Principal Valerie Lopez-Miranda, the rest of the school wellness team, additional school faculty, and parents. Initiatives like this become three times easier to maintain when parents and the school are on board!
With growing popularity, the school took ownership of consistently providing and leading Fitness Fridays where students from one nearby neighborhood bike to school in a bike train and other students, from five different walking routes, walk to meet each other to create one large walking school bus. In August of 2016, Vanessa and Celia Preble-Gaitz (SRTS Outreach Coordinator) planned and facilitated a Walking School Bus leader training for school staff and interested parents. There were 11 graduates from this skills and confidence building training including Principal Lopez-Miranda! Each Fitness Friday sees an average of over 100 students walking or biking to school. Even with the rough, rocky sides of the road, dusty, overgrown sidewalks, and high traffic zone, the students, staff, and parents still walk to show their dedication to their health and the need for easier and safer access for a simple daily walking or biking commute to school.
When October rolled around, out of 50 schools across Pima County, Los Amigos had the highest participation in the WALKtober Challenge, an annual event organized by SRTS to encourage more children to walk or bike to school across the Tucson region. With extra planning and promotion, city and county officials were invited to join the Fitness Friday that fell within WALKtober week. With over 300 students, Ms. Flores, Principal Lopez-Miranda, Los Amigos staff and parents, City of Tucson Bicycle and Pedestrian Program, Tucson Police Department and Bike Patrol, Pima County Supervisor Ramón Valadez, Pima County Sheriff, Sunnyside Unified School District, and Pima County Bike Ambassadors joined the walk to school that day and highlighted the importance and value of having alternative ways of getting to school.