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The walking school bus
By Connie Grosch / September 18, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...

When the Providence Children's Initiative (PCI), a Family Service of Rhode Island program, took a look at chronic absenteeism in a low-income area in South Providence, they started by mapping the homes of the families experiencing problems with school attendance. To their surprise, the maps revealed that the kids who live closest to school – all within one mile – have the most problems getting there.

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Since students living within one mile of their school do not qualify for bus transportation, PCI staff reached out to the parents of chronically absent students in an attempt to understand the obstacles families face in getting their children to school: not owning a car, children in other schools, younger children at home, parents’ work schedules, and health issues.

And so was born the Walking School Bus: The program involves adult volunteers picking up students at designated “stops” and walking them to and from school every day.

The first walking school bus started in September 2012 at the Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School with one route and six students. Now the program is at three schools serving almost 50 students, with plans to add two additional schools yet this school year.

Not only do the volunteers get the kids to school safely and on time, but they build relationships with the children. At times, the kids get to meet local celebrity volunteers-for-a-day like Providence and RI State Police officers, the Governor, and community leaders like our Jessica David, Daniel Kertzner and Toby Shepherd.

If we can help these children get to school every day, we are helping to better their future,” says program manager Allyson Trenteseaux. “You have to arrive to achieve.”

The Walking School Bus is always looking for volunteers for the morning and afternoon.  For more information, call 401-331-1350 ext. 3457.

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