NEWPORT — In the same breath as we say goodbye to summer, we say hello to a brand new school year. Everyone is excited and the energy levels are still running high, so what better way to use that energy than with a walk?
Newport City Elementary School is starting the third year of participation in the Safe Routes to School program and will celebrate with a walk to school on Wednesday, September 6th.
In July 2005, Congress passed the program to improve safety on walking and biking routes to school and to encourage kids and families to travel between home and school on two wheels or two feet. Family members, volunteers, and neighbors are all welcomed and encouraged to join in.
The community continues to work together to ensure that kids have an option once a month to enjoy walking to school with adult supervision. North Country Hospital, the local office of the Vermont Department of Health, Newport City Elementary School and community volunteers have helped make this program a success.
“Walking to school is a great way for kids to get their daily requirement for physical activity,” said Beth Barnes, Community Outreach Specialist at North Country Hospital. “It can also help students build confidence, friendships and independence, and also understand that choosing to walk helps the environment.”
On September 6 the walk will be called “Into the Light” and will be an opportunity for students to learn, at age appropriate levels, about suicide prevention.
This collaboration will draw attention to three important issues that students may encounter. The three walking school buses will focus on topics:
1. Stop bullying and harassment
2. Mental health is good for your soul/sole
3. Who Ya Gonna Call?
By acknowledging these issues, organizers hope to give kids a voice to talk about these and other difficult subjects with parents or trained counselors.
The “Into the Light” walk was inspired by the “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walk in Newport happening on September 9. It is the 6th annual walk which was inspired by two Vermont families in 2011 who lost sons to suicide.
“Our walk is now one of over 300 throughout the United States and we raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” Mary Butler, who helps coordinate the Newport walk, said. “The funds we raise are used for outreach, prevention, education and research.”
Suicide among the teen, and even pre-teen population is real. Although slightly lower than the Vermont state average, the 2015 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey states that 11 percent of high school students in the North Country Supervisory Union made a suicide plan in the past 12 months, while 13 percent of middle schoolers made one.
So mark your calendars to join the “Into the Light” walk on September 6 at Newport City Elementary School and the “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walk on September 9.
The walking school buses will leave from the following locations:
7:15 a.m. leaves from in front of the courthouse on Main Street, Newport
7:45 a.m. walking school buses leave from East Main at Sunset Terrace and also Blake Street at Winter Street.
After the walk on September 6 please join us at the school for a parent/community breakfast. This will be a great chance to start your day with a walk, enjoy a light breakfast and meet the new NCES administration, teachers, and other parents.