At 7 a.m. Wednesday morning the rain was pouring down, and the last thing most Yalies probably wanted to do was walk to class.
But at the kindergarten through eighth grade Edgewood Magnet School, the student body was celebrating International Walk to School Day despite the inclement weather.
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The day ultimately involved little walking for the nearly 500 students who were supposed to mark the occasion by walking en masse from the Yale Bowl to their school at 737 Edgewood Ave. But the enthusiasm among the students, parents, teachers and city officials gathered in the school’s cafeteria was palpable nonetheless.
Students chatted excitedly about walking to school. Standing in the cafeteria prior to the assembly, third-graders Aidan Rountree and Henry Hall put their arms around each other as they talked.
“Hopefully we’ll walk together!” Hall exclaimed
Many of the students were clutching banners promoting street safety and healthy living. “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!” reminded one student’s sign.
Speakers at the event included New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, New Haven Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo, Edgewood principal Bonnie Pachesa and Yale-New Haven Hospital nurse Pina Violano.
“Are you going to help us with something this morning?” DeStefano, who regularly bikes to work, said to the students at the event. “It’s just so average to ride the bus. You know what it’s better to do? Walk to school.”
Children need 13,000 steps a day to be healthy — 3,000 more steps than adults should be getting, Violano said.
“Walking is exercise and it’s good for you … You’ll be healthier mentally, and you will be able to do your schoolwork better,” Mayo added to applause. “Put away your video games, your TV, and start walking!”
Students who attended the day’s festivities were provided with health-themed goody bags courtesy of the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking’s Street Smarts Campaign. The bags contained, among other goodies, a pedometer, health and safety-related information, jump-ropes and small gadgets that match the number of calories in common junk food items such as Big Macs with the corresponding amount of walking needed to lose those calories.
But not everyone in the crowd was convinced that walking to school is foolproof. Four high school students in attendance said they felt uncomfortable with the idea of young children walking to school in the Edgewood area. Nakia Mitchell, 17, and Letishag Artis, 17, who both have younger siblings, said they would not want them walking to school alone.
“They could get kidnapped or snatched,” Mitchell said.
But DeStefano advocated walking to school, explaining that the city is undertaking a comprehensive initiative to make its roads safer and more widely usable. In particular, he cited the current addition of bike lanes to a number of city roads.
Noticeably absent from the event was the squadron of Yale football players and cheerleaders that was originally scheduled to meet with the students at the Yale Bowl and walk with them to school.
“Due to a misunderstanding with the Yale Athletic director, the football players and cheerleaders did not come when we moved the event [from the Yale Bowl],” said New Haven resident Jim Travers, one of the event’s organizers. “They thought it was cancelled.”
The assembly concluded with a lively parade around the school building. With the Edgewood marching band taking the lead, the students, the mayor and representatives from New Haven marched to Journey’s power ballad “Don’t Stop Believing.”