Kevin K. Coleman Elementary School students got a change of scene during their walk to school this morning - Miss Rhode Island Kelsey Fournier joined principal Lisa Jacques and Mayor Leo Fontaine, among other luminaries, for Walk to School Day at the intersection of Second Avenue and Olo Street.
The trio joined Eugenia Marks, Senior Director for Policy at the Audobon Society of RI, Steve Church with the RIDOT Safe Routes to School program, and John Flaherty, director of research and communications at GrowSmart RI.
Fournier smiled at children and talked to a few as they passed on their way to Coleman Elementary at about 8:45 a.m. this morning, most too focused on their commute to class to realize they were sharing the sidewalk with Miss Rhode Island. A few did, though — Emilye Miranda, 7, there with her dad, Miguel, nodded shyly when asked if she was exicted about Fournier's visit.
Fournier's cause as Miss Rhode Island is childhood obesity, she explained, which makes the effort to encourage kids to walk to school whenever they can something she was happy to support. "As a health educator (she graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in health education) and advocate for obesity prevention, I think this is a great event to promote actvive lifestyles among our students. By providing safe routes to schools, we are giving our younger generation another opportunity to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines," Fournier said.
Marks, also the state Walk to School Day organizer, said the CDC reccomends 60 minutes of exercise per day for children, and 20 minutes per day for adults. "Walking to school can fulfil part of that requirement without gym fees or special clothing," she said.
The intersection at Coleman, as well as those of three other schools, was upgraded this summer. Woonsocket and six other communities applied for federal transportation funding for "Safe Routes To Schools" to improve safety for students walking to school. During the the summer, four of those projects were completed with fluorescent signs, barrier posts and new crosswalk striping.
"I am pleased that safety projects at Coleman Elementary and Middle Schools and the crosswalk on Cumberland Street were implemented this summer, said Fontaine. "In a compact city like Woonsocket, many of our students walk, and we want to assure safe passage to the classroom."
Lisa Jacques, the new principal at Coleman Elementary, took a moment to thank the crosswalk guards helping their fellow classmates cross through the intersection that morning. "I want to thank everybody who pitches in to make this place safe," she said.