A lot of content that you may see at our BTC website is obviously focused on trails, recreational programs, and events around town. However, we'd like to stop every now and again to speak to the folks both involved with the organization as well as people who utilize these resources. Thanks to Cheyanne Sparks for sharing about her time with the Dillon Walking School Bus. If you would like to share your story please contact us, we'd love to hear from you.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I began calling Dillon home in the fall of 2004 when I became a student at the University of Montana Western (UMW). After graduating in 2007 from UMW with a Business Administration degree, I moved to Omaha, NE in pursuit of a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at the College of St. Mary. Following this we returned back to Beaverhead County in 2009 and have been here since. In 2011-2012 I changed gears serving our community as an Americorps member. In the summer of 2012 I got married to my husband Brandon Sparks, an elementary education major at UMW graduating this May 2015. Shortly after in September of 2012, I opened Spark into Motion Wellness Center and began coordinating the Walking School Bus program. I enjoy taking time to help our community grow, it feels good to be a vested community member.
How did you get involved with the Walking School Bus program?
In 2011, as a team leader, for all of the Americorps volunteers at UMW, I helped organize the volunteers and participated in a variety of service projects around Dillon. The Walking School Bus (WSB) was one of the programs that I became involved in. It was started the previous year by a fellow UMW Americorps member. I really felt like I became a member of the community during my year of service. My time in Americorps ended, but through additional grant funding I was able to become the coordinator for the WSB. I have currently held this position since the Fall of 2012.
Any updates on the spring WSB season?
This spring we are introducing Celebrity Fridays for both WSB Routes. These are local people that are visible in the community and we hope will be role models for the kids and make the walk to school fun. We are still confirming some of the dates, but most of the schedule is set. The season started on March 20th being led by the local schools’ mascots. Other local people that have walked with us and/or are planning on to are Dillon Police, Beaverhead County Sheriff officers, Emergency Medical Services volunteers, Barrett Hospital doctors and staff, US Forest Service staff and Smokey the Bear, Youth Connections Mentors, UMW Athletes, and local bank and business leaders. So, all in all, a lot of different groups.
Our volunteer staff is increasing. We have at least five more volunteers than we’ve had in previous seasons. Our youngest volunteer is still our son Archer, who has been walking with students on their way to school for his second year. Student participation is also up. We expect that as other kids see us walking to school and the weather becomes a little warmer we will have a steady increase in participation through the end of the school year.
What’s your favorite thing about the WSB?
I like teaching kids. It’s great to talk to them about the importance of walking. Through the program we hope the kids feel comfortable making the choice to walk to school. I’ve heard that some kids beg their parents to walk to school rather than just being dropped off. A couple of kids who live out of town get dropped off along the WSB route and then continue with the group on the walk to school.
What’s your goal for the Dillon Walking School Bus/where would you like to see it go?
I would love to see the program walk Monday through Friday. The current volunteers uphold a consistent walking schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We are limited seasonally to the fall and spring by safety concerns of walking to school when it is light out.
I want to emphasize that while my title may be Coordinator, this program truly runs by all of the work from our volunteers. They are an extremely dedicated group that keeps the program going. Also we have great parents that are willing to get their kids involved and get their kids up in time to walk. It’s really a community effort. Thanks to all of those involved.
Open floor-Is there anything at all that you’d like to say?
It is with a heavy heart that I have made the decision to step down as the WSB coordinator effective the end of June 2015, but the program WILL continue with the support of volunteers and various community members. It is my passion is to help kids and adults develop and adapt to their environments so they can thrive to their utmost abilities. In January of 2014 we brought into this world a son that is truly remarkable and one of a kind unique, he requires much more assistance than a typical child and I am turning pages of the past to become fully present within parenthood and raising my child. This community is one that uplifts and supports all members an event will be held for our son on May 1st follow on Facebook @ Archer’s Journey or my blog www.sparkintomotionllc.com. I want to thank each and every child, parent, community member, and volunteer. I have faith that this program is embedding in the community and it is here to stay!