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Nonprofit Adds Sidewalks, Playground to Neighborhood in the ‘Colonias’



A housing agency advocate, fueled by locally targeted research and focus groups of homeowners, creates policy to include sidewalks, hike/bike trails, and a playground to plans for an affordable housing neighborhood in a colonia, an impoverished, highly Hispanic region of South Texas. EMERGENCE Awareness: Research indicates an obesity rate of 18.1% among Mexican-American preschool -aged children living in colonias—small, impoverished settlements that often lack proper infrastructure along the Texas-Mexico border. These colonias tend to lack sidewalks, street lights, places for recreation, and running water. Ann Cass, director of Proyecto Azteca—a non-profit organization that works to build homes for residents in the colonias—generally was aware that improvements needed to be ...

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Community Transforms Train Tracks, into Hike & Bike Trail in Brownsville, TX



Having limited resources, partnerships and community involvement played a key role in transforming old train tracks into the Belden Trail in West Brownsville, a largely Latino town in Texas. A physician-turned-city-leader worked with community leaders and discussed ways to improve the quality of life for residents living in one of the most underserved and neglected regions of the city that lacks spaces for physical activity. The team’s persistence and belief in how this trail could transform the community helped them secure a statewide rails-to-trails grant. But the story doesn’t end there. Recently, the city added ADA approved sidewalks leading to nearby bus stops, developed a master hike and bike plan, and is planning for a community garden. Through teamwork and dedication to an ...

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Students Reclaim Streets with a Walking School Bus in Springfield



A predominantly Latino elementary school proves that morning exercise through a walking school bus program can benefit students, parents, and the community. Not only have school attendance rates increased, community engagement levels have increased, too. A Walking School Bus at Brightwood Elementary School in Springfield, Mass., now offers hope—and physical activity—to a community that not long ago faced fears of unsafe streets and high crime rates. Karen Pohlman, a nurse practitioner and community program manager for Baystate Medical Center, knew the community was struggling and wanted to improve people’s health, so she developed a plan to implement a walking school bus at Brightwood Elementary. EMERGENCE Awareness: Crime was high in the North End of Springfield, Mass., which ...

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Monthly Bike Ride Program Gets More San Antonio Kids on Bikes



Growing up, Dante Jones always looked forward to weekend bike rides with his father. In those rides with his dad, Jones said he learned important life lessons and experienced the beauty of the outdoors, all while getting exercise. So when his daughter, Glory, was old enough to ride a bike he decided to start a similar tradition. He hoped it would allow them to spend more quality time together and instill in her the value of living an active lifestyle and the fun of activities like biking and skating. Jones noticed that other children from the neighborhood wanted to tag along when he and his daughter would go out for bike rides. He invited them along. He started to realize that there was a lack of positive role models in the neighborhood, and also a lack of afterschool ...

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Sisters Launch Afterschool Fitness Program for Neighborhood Kids



San Antonio sisters Makayla Esparza, 9, and Alyssa Esparza, 8, led largely inactive lifestyles. They saw a weight-loss contest on TV and decided to get active and help others get active, but they didn’t know of any afterschool programs to join and they didn’t have anyone to be active with. This led to their big idea: invite all the kids from their neighborhood for a 90-day get fit challenge to improve. With the help of their grandmother, Dawn Guerrero, Alyssa and Makayla posted an ad on Craigslist to invite kids to be active with them. They also invited members from the fitness community to show them ways to be fit. Soon kids from all over the neighborhood started showing up, and the group “Fitness FUNatics” was born. Although their 90-day challenge is now over, the Fitness ...

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New Greenway Provides a Path to Resilience & Increased Physical Activity



An abandoned alley in Lake Worth, Fla., was re-developed into an attractive greenway through team work and perseverance by a researcher, school district employee, city staff, and the community. The greenway, which is located near a school in a predominantly Latino area, will increase the area’s walkability and connect two neighborhoods to a nearby high school. EMERGENCE Awareness: Dr. Ruth McCaffrey, a trained nurse and professor at Florida Atlantic University, was keenly aware that obesity was a growing concern in Lake Worth, Fla. About 30% of the city’s 35,000 residents live in poverty, and 40% are Latino—with a growing number of families migrating there from Guatemala. Several parts of town lack adequate spaces for physical activity, and the way the city was designed impedes ...

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