The Wednesday Walking PALs Program is a voluntary community-based program for Claremont Elementary and Roosa Elementary students in Claremore, OK. Adult and high school volunteers from the Volunteers for Youth PAL Mentoring Program escort the students from a designated meeting place to their school on Wednesday mornings during a fall and spring session.
How Did You Develop This Idea?
Mendy Stone, Lead Project Director for the TSET Healthy Living Program (HLP) serving Rogers County, was key in starting the program. The idea for Walking PALs was developed based off of a walking school bus model. We partner elementary students with adult and high school students screened and trained as mentors (PALs) who lead the walking groups. We incorporate talking points for the mentors related to healthy living (nutrition, physical activity, tobacco, good behavior, school attendance). The program offers weekly fall and spring sessions for approximately 12 weeks each (on Wednesdays).
How Much Did It Cost?
The cost was minimal. We needed signage and other safety equipment for the leaders, some of which was donated.
How Much Staff Time or Volunteer Effort Did It Take?
Initial set up of Walking PALs took about thirty hours and included meeting with school officials and planning walking routes. Currently, the TSET HLP Community Liaison takes time to actively promote the program and the Lead Project Director walks each week with one of the groups. So, the program requires approximately one hour per week per volunteer (we have about 10 community volunteers weekly).
What Other Partners Were Engaged and How Did They Participate?
Wednesday Walking PALs involves two local elementary schools, high school students, the PAL mentoring program, two congregations (we meet in their parking lots), local emergency medical services (EMS), and local business professionals.
What Would You Do Differently?
Looking back, we should have focused a little more on recruitment of the student participants. It would have been a good idea to work on student recruitment through the school Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and through the school running clubs. We have gained more participation by addressing the student body at Claremont during their weekly “Rise & Shine” assembly and we had a presence during “Back to School Night” at both schools.
How Did This Move Your Work Plan Forward?
This program moves our work forward on TSET Healthy Living Program outcome G4, active living and transportation (click here to read more about this strategy).
Where Are You Planning to Take This Idea in the Future?
The Walking PALs program is currently at two schools; we would love to implement the program in other schools and at least two more schools that participated this October in National Walk to School Day have indicated a desire to start weekly walking groups in the Spring of 2020.
To learn more about this initiative, or go exchange ideas for promoting active living in Oklahoma communities, contact Mendy Stone, TSET HLP Lead Project Director or Jody Reiss, TSET Project Director in the Cities/Government & Workplace sectors, Rogers County Volunteers for Youth.
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