Yuma, Arizona: Parades Encourage Walking to School


During the summer months, Yuma, Arizona, is a mid-sized city with approximately 85,000 residents. In the winter months, however, the population increases as people migrate to the city to escape the colder climates. This migration leads to increased traffic congestion and pedestrian safety concerns when students are walking to school. In 2007, the Yuma Elementary School District #1 organized a parade to school at Desert Mesa Elementary School and O.C. Johnson Elementary School to promote safe and healthy places for the children to walk and bicycle to school.


The parades form part of the school district’s comprehensive strategy to create safer schools and healthier learning environments for the students. This program, called Safe Schools/Healthy Students has more than 70 staff members, who provide services in the home, to school and in school to support student success. The parades begin at a designated location approximately one-quarter mile from the school. A police car leads the parade and guides the participants along the parade route. The police car is followed by the local high school marching band, students, parents, school staff, local sports teams, law enforcement partners and public officials. The caboose of the parade is an empty school bus decorated with poster and streamers symbolizing how 40 students walking or bicycling to school equals one empty school bus.

The school district has held two parades. The first parade took place at Desert Mesa Elementary in November 2007. More than 200 students and family members participated in the event, and each student participant receiving a sticker and pencil for completing the parade route. In January 2008, the second parade was held at O.C. Johnson Elementary School. This parade had more than 350 student and family member participants. Students participating in these parades earned stickers saying “I am a Safe Route Star” and received school supplies as incentives for their participation. At the conclusion of the parades, school staff, students and the families listened to a brief performance by the high school bands.


Due to the success of the two parades, District #1 plans to hold a third parade at James B. Rolle Elementary in March 2008. This parade will differ from the other parades because it will be a parent pick-up parade. Parents will be encouraged to park their cars away from the school, walk to the school to pick up their children at the end of the day and then walk back together to their cars.


Geoff Dewhurst
450 West Sixth St
Yuma, AZ 85364
Email: gdewhurst@yumaed.org
Phone: 928-502-4433