ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- Tampa Bay Rays front office staff, the Rays Baseball Foundation and Jabil, along with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Rays team mascot Raymond, will join more than 50 Campbell Park Elementary School children on International Walk to School Day, Wednesday, October 3, starting at 7:45 a.m. and ending at the Campbell Park PE courtyard around 8:30 a.m.
The caravan of children, parents and volunteers is part of an ongoing program known as “The Walking School Bus,” funded by the Rays Baseball Foundation and Jabil. Jabil donated $500 to the Rays Baseball Foundation for the Rays first base hit of every regular season game as part of the “Hits For Kids program,” which benefits the Rays South St. Petersburg Impact Initiatives. Other key partners include United Way Suncoast, All Children’s Hospital, Pinellas County School District and the City of St. Petersburg.
“It’s great to be part of a program that can have such a big impact on the children of St. Petersburg,” said Bill Peters, Jabil Executive Vice President. “We are excited to partner with the Rays on this community-based program because we believe that it can make a positive difference in a child’s life.”
The Campbell Park Walking School Bus came about after a 2011 United Way needs assessment, commissioned by the Rays Baseball Foundation, found that 25 percent of Campbell Park students were missing 20 or more days of school. The lack of a safe way to get children to school was identified as a major cause of the high truancy rates.
The Walking School Bus also engages parents, many of whom are volunteers and walk their children and their neighbors’ children to school each morning. The parents get to know each other and become more involved in their community and in their children’s school in the process.
“Student tardiness has dropped dramatically. On a given day we have about 15 students that are tardy, in previous years it would be upwards of 50. It has taken our office staff about one hour a day to write tardy passes for each student, now it only takes about 15 minutes,” said Godfrey Watson, Campbell Park Elementary School principal. “This has improved efficiency in the front office and allows our staff to better serve our students and parents. Because of the Walking School Bus students are arriving on time to have a well-balanced breakfast in our cafeteria. Having a filling hot meal ensures that students are alert and ready to learn from the moment they step into their class at 9 a.m. The community has been extremely receptive, and I believe that the Walking School Bus has ignited a fire in the Campbell Park Community that I am confident will continue to grow and have a positive impact on student achievement.”
Parents and volunteers will meet at 7:45 a.m. at each location and begin their walk, gathering children along the way to Campbell Park Elementary. Mayor Foster will walk the Enoch Davis route accompanied by St. Petersburg Police Department motorcycles. Rays team mascot Raymond will walk the Citrus Grove route accompanied by the Rays vehicle. Representatives from Jabil and Rays front office staff will join neighbors and family members in cheering on the walkers along each route.
“We are immensely proud to be part of a program that will have such a direct impact on so many children,” said Mark Fernandez, Rays Senior Vice President. “We are grateful to Jabil for their significant role in helping fund this effort, the United Way for their leadership and expertise throughout this process and the numerous Rays employees whose countless hours of dedicated service brought the vision of the Campbell Park Walking School Bus to life.”
“The Walking School Bus program is another great example of how community partnerships, along with parent volunteers, can positively affect our student’s education,” said Mayor Bill Foster. “I want to thank the Rays Baseball Foundation, United Way, Jabil, All Children’s Hospital and the Pinellas County School District for working together on this project which is likely to serve as a role model for other communities across the country.”
In 2011, millions of children, parents, and community leaders from 40 countries around the world joined together in celebration of International Walk to School Month, which encourages a more walkable world, one community at a time.