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Professors Obtain Grant to Improve School Routes for Walkers

Anna Greer and Sofia Pendley partner with Make the Road Connecticut to help keep Bridgeport students safe

Professor Anna Greer, center, works with Bridgeport youth to make an intersection safer through art and other features in June 2018. She and Professor Sofia Pendley will continue the work this year thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Small Grant Programs Initiative.

Professors Anna Greer and Sofia Pendley from the Department of Public Health at Sacred Heart University have received a $15,000 grant from the Nature Conservancy’s Small Grant Programs Initiative, which is funded by the JPB Foundation in partnership with Whole Communities.

In partnership with Make the Road Connecticut (MRCT) and the CT Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the professors and their students will conduct a permanent urban conservation project at a dangerous Bridgeport intersection that city youth often use to walk to school. The MRCT youth leaders will also be increasing awareness of the need for conservation improvements along walk-to-school corridors and a city-endorsed Safe Routes to School program. According to its website, the Safe Routes to School program promotes walking and biking to school through infrastructure improvements. Greer and Pendley will be documenting practices for engaging youth from immigrant communities in urban conservation projects and advocacy so that other communities can replicate the work.

“This grant will allow SHU faculty in the public health graduate program to support MRCT youth as they work to advocate for safer routes to school in Bridgeport and the state. This work is important, as we worked with MRCT youth last year to assess often-used routes to school in Bridgeport and found that most intersections had failing scores. This grant will support a streetscape improvement to one of those failing intersections and will support continued advocacy for safe routes to school,” said Greer.

In 2018, Greer led a series of workshops for MRCT youth to expand their capacity to promote safety for Bridgeport students who walk to school. These were a response to a Bridgeport policy that requires all high school students living within two miles of their school and elementary students living within a mile-and-a-half to make their own way there and home. Many of the students affected by the policy lack money for a car or public transportation and must walk to school. While walking to school is typically encouraged, Greer says that without the proper infrastructure to support pedestrian safety, walking to school can actually jeopardize students’ health and safety.

Greer and Pendley’s work is in conjunction with MRCT which describes itself on its website as “an organization that builds membership with low-income and working-class Latinos living in Bridgeport and Hartford,” and says it speaks up for “immigrant rights, worker rights, education equity, LGBTQ justice, women’s rights and more.”

Both Greer and Pendley already are working as the lead evaluators on a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant from the Green Village Initiative in Bridgeport. This four-year grant supports Bridgeport’s Community Food Project, the purpose of which is to build pipelines of healthy eaters and consumers, along with local food businesses and producers, in support of a just and equitable, community-driven food system in the area.

“This Food Justice grant is an opportunity for SHU’s public health professors and students to support Bridgeport organizations as they work to address food injustice in Bridgeport,” said Greer.