Tega Cay, SC (Oct. 10, 2014) The Tega Cay Elementary School (TCES) celebration of International Walk to School Day was a tremendous success. Principal Chris Gardner noted huge student and parent participation, complimenting the community’s commitment to the school, health and wellness. “We are fortunate to have great walking paths leading to our brand-new school. Hopefully this event showed first-time walkers and bicyclists that it is possible, and fun, to walk or bike to school regularly,” said PTO Healthy Titans health and wellness committee co-chair, Elizabeth Duda. The event was organized by TCES physical education teachers and Healthy Titans. Dr. Rob Cynowa, representing Eat Smart Move More York County, observed that, “Research shows 91% of obesity and type-2 diabetes cases can be prevented with 30 minutes of brisk walking daily. Walking with our children to school is a great way to lead by healthy example.”
Local celebrities Mayor George Sheppard and Mayor Pro Tempore Jennifer Stalford greeted the kids at the front of the school. Stalford observed that students arrived to school invigorated, possibly from the fresh air or exercise. When she left her house very early in the morning to get to campus to greet the walkers, she saw students already setting out from the end of Historic Tega Cay. Just as the morning bell was about to ring, a small group of red-faced walkers approached the school’s front door, announcing that they had walked the full length of the nearly-3-mile path to get there.
Teachers Erin Bonjour and Reid Lancaster let their kindergarten students run around inside the fenced grassy area to greet arriving walkers, adding to the joy. One student in that class said not one kid got punished for bad behavior that day, supporting the idea that students can better focus after physical activity. Dr. Cynowa “arrived at 7am and hordes of students already were streaming in.” (School doors open at 7:15am.) PE teacher Christy Scott was shocked to run out of the approximately 600 stickers that Safe Routes to School supplied to distribute to walkers and bicyclists. The TCES crossing guard was glad to have been “warned about the event, or else I wouldn’t have known what was going on. I waved hardly any cars into the school entrance. It was a much easier job this morning.”
The Tega Cay Police Department, under a City of Tega Cay tent in the Living Memorial Gardens, sought to raise awareness for the safety of students who walk to school year round. TCPD lieutenant James Patterson said officers spoke with a few hundred people at “Coffee with a Cop.”
PE Teacher Stephen Rice counted fewer than 15 cars at the after-school pickup line, much lighter than the typical 100 cars. Second grader and kindergartner Charlie and Harry Duda, respectively, handed out a healthy snack to kids after school at the Trailhead Park “meet and greet.” Apples were donated by Absolute Organics, and Tega Cay tennis coach Paul Muenow provided water jugs for students to refill their water bottles. Parent Shannon Miller thought this event was a nice, mellow way to catch up with friends while kids played on the playground. Earlier in the week, Charlie Duda had written a book about International Walk to School Day and read it to his class, then posted it outside his classroom door to promote the event. Given event popularity, it seems like the promotion worked.
About this event: International Walk to School Day involves communities from more than 40 countries. Over time, this event has become part of a movement for year-round safe routes to school and a celebration each October. Thousands of schools participate across America from all 50 states, the D.C. and Puerto Rico. Nearly 300 schools were expected to participate in South Carolina, with events supported by the South Carolina Safe Routes to School Resource Center, a federally-funded project of the South Carolina Department of Transportation. TCES was proud to join them this year. Walk to School events work to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community. For additional information on TCES Walks to School, please contact Elizabeth Duda at Elizabeth_Walles@hotmail.com.
Healthy Titans Mission: Work with students, parents, teachers, administrators and the related community to help educate and encourage healthy behaviors in an attempt to foster the healthiest learning environment possible for TCES students.
Written by Liz Duda, October 13, 2014