UM WalkSafe Promotes Health and Safety on International Walk to School Day

In UM WalkSafe’s 11th year of decreasing pedestrian injuries, increasing physical activity and improving the environments around schools, program faculty and staff joined more than 500 students, parents, teachers and community leaders on October 3 to promote safety and wellness at Miami Park Elementary School on International Walk to School Day.

“International Walk to School Day is the kickoff to a school year and a lifetime of walking more and walking safely for these students,” said Gillian Hotz, Ph.D., research professor of neurological surgery and Director of the KiDz Neuroscience Center at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, who has directed the expansion of the program’s research initiatives, outreach and community involvement. “The WalkSafe program has contributed to a 70 percent decrease in the most severe pedestrian injuries in the county.”

The day started with an early-morning pep rally, where South Florida mascots Sebastian the Ibis, Billy the Marlin and Bernie from the Miami Heat, and members of UM’s UCheer squad and Sunsations dance team helped teach kids about walking safely to school and staying healthy.

Grammy nominated hip-hop artist Tramar Dillard, who goes by the name Flo Rida, discussed the importance of staying in school and performed a rap song with students and other special guests, including Jayne Greenberg, Ph.D., Director of Physical Education and Health Literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools; David Henderson, Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator; Miami-Dade County Health Department representatives Yessica Gomez and Victoria McBee; and several School Board members and Miami-Dade County police officers.

“This event is very near and dear to the heart of the WalkSafe program and the community of Miami-Dade County,” said Katie Swidarski, WalkSafe Project Coordinator. “Miami Park Elementary and the entire team, including administration, staff and faculty, have gone above and beyond the traditional implementation of the program.”

The results of their hard work were showcased at the event. Walkers were serenaded by Coral Gables Senior High School’s Band of Distinction, which led the crowd along the perimeter of the school. As Hotz noted, “Every child or parent we educate may be a pedestrian death prevented.”

More than 5,000 schools in the United States and nearly four million people in 40 countries around the world participated in International Walk to School Day.

For more information about the WalkSafe program, visit

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