Executives and staff from the Rays Baseball Foundation and Jabil, along with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond, will join more than 50 Campbell Park Elementary School children on International Walk to School Day Wednesday, Oct. 3 starting at 7:45 a.m. and ending at the Campbell Park PE courtyard around 8:30 a.m.
- Enoch Davis Recreation Center, 1111 18th Ave. S.
- Silver Lake Park, 13th & 14th Streets & 11th Avenue South
- Citrus Grove Apartments, formerly known as Bethel Heights Apartments, 731 15th St S.
According to a news release, Parents and volunteers will meet at 7:45 a.m. at each location, and begin their walk, collecting children along the way to Campbell Park Elementary.
Foster, according to the city, will walk the Enoch Davis route accompanied by the Police Department motorcycles.
Rays mascot Raymond will walk the Citrus Grove route accompanied by the Rays vehicle. Representatives from Jabil and Rays will join neighbors and family members in cheering on the walkers along each route.
The caravan of children, parents and volunteers is part of an ongoing program known as "The Walking School Bus" and is funded by The Rays Baseball Foundation and Jabil.
According to the city news release, for each first Rays base hit in every regular season game this year, Jabil has donated $500 towards the program. 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 in a news release. "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.
According to a news release, 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 to write tardy passes for each student, now it only takes about 15 minutes. This has improved efficiency in the front office and allows our staff to better serve our students and parents," said Godfrey Watson, Campbell Park Elementary School principal.
"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 9:00am. 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," Watson added.
"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 in a news release. "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."