As someone who has been involved with Safe Routes to School for over nine years, it has been very satisfying – let alone exciting – to see the Safe Routes Partnership’s state network project not only thrive, but continue to get generously funded. And being personally involved has only made it that much sweeter. Prior to joining the staff in May 2011, I served on the Safe Routes Partnership’s Steering Committee for three years. A lot of hard, smart and strategic work continues to pay off. It’s not every day that a state agency employee tells a highly effective advocacy organization that they are excited their state has become or will continue to be one of the Safe Routes Partnership’s network states. But that happened to us.
The state network’s successes cover a wide range, and with the launch of the new project in January 2012, the project will be more focused and go deeper. But like anything related to school, there is a history lesson involved.
The state network project launched in January 2007 and was supported in 10 states, but as the success and potential became readily apparent, it doubled in size in 2010 and stayed at this size through 2011. Now the state network project is taking a longer view, and focusing more on select issues, and for the first time has full-time staff in each of the participating states (CA, FL, MS, NJ, NC, OH, TN). This is exciting, not to mention a highly efficient way to succeed. I know from my experience that there are many and varied stakeholders, and as Safe Routes to School is getting closer to being a household phrase, the number and variety of stakeholders continues to expand at a rapid pace. A good example? How about the recent pushback on the federal transportation bill! No Safe Routes to School money? Not acceptable! States continue to see record numbers of applications for funding while more communities are taking matters in to their own hands and owning Safe Routes to School.
My view on it is that as we serve our children and our communities by working with them to create active and safe ways to get around, it will ultimately deliver the permanent change we are working towards – a healthier future. That is where the state network project is focused. I am thrilled to see this evolution and to be a part of it. It is a future that we can all embrace.
For more information about the state network project, go to: www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/network.