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Safe Routes to School Program: Nurturing a Culture of Physical Well-Being and Safety

March 20, 2024

In the University of Idaho College of Education, Health & Human Sciences community, associate professor Cate Egan Loiacono spearheads the impactful 'Safe Routes to School' (SRTS) program. This grant-supported endeavor carries a compelling mission: empowering school-aged youth and their families to embrace active travel to and from school and recreational activities, nurturing a culture of physical well-being and safety.

The program boasts a storied legacy, championed by passionate individuals like Grace Goc Karp & Helen Brown for over a decade. Cate assumed leadership several years ago, and this year, CJ Brush joined her in propelling the project forward. The team, including Grant Coordinator Sheron Gingras, collectively steers the program towards heightened impact and community engagement.

Central to the 'Safe Routes to School' initiative is its commitment to the 5 E’s: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation, & Engineering. Annual events such as International Walk to School Day, Polar Walk to School Day, and Bike to School Day provide platforms for physical education students to lead walking and rolling school buses, guiding students on safe incorporation of active travel into their daily routines.

The program's reach extends beyond events. Local initiatives include hosting bike education days for 3rd graders, offering comprehensive training for 6th graders, and collaborating with high school classes on bicycle units. Notably, inclusivity is paramount, demonstrated through summer programs like 'Adventure Club' and 'Enabling Explorers', teaching children of all abilities how to ride a bike. Community engagement remains pivotal. The team actively participates in the Moscow Kids Safety Fair, providing assistance with bicycle repairs, helmet decorating, and hosting bike rodeos.

Cate's involvement in the 'Safe Routes to School' project yields not only community-wide benefits but also personal and professional fulfillment. Reflecting on her academic journey, Cate shares, “When I set out on my academic journey, I wanted to contribute to scholarship and move the field forward, but I did not want to lose sight of the people and programs that are the foundation of our work. In my case, that is educations and K-12 schools.” She underscores the unique opportunity at the University of Idaho to blend scholarly pursuits with impactful community service.

“And most importantly,” Cate adds, “I think I am lucky enough to work with some of the most fantastic students. There is nothing better than a Vandal PE Teacher, and they are my inspiration for continuing this work. They are right alongside me in the schools and the communities helping others lead a healthy and active life.”

One of the most gratifying aspects for Cate is the recognition she garners as the “bike lady” within the Moscow community. Such recognition often sparks conversations with parents about how the project has facilitated their children's bike riding skills and street navigation, fostering a profound connection between the project, our faculty/students, and the local community. This project epitomizes the remarkable work within our college and serves as an inspiring model for community-based initiatives.

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu.


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