Serge Mokah finally found a way to illustate the appeal of a healthy lifestyle to his kids.
Mokah, the father of a first-grader and third-grader at Polton Elementary School, is in a constant contest rooted in fitness. He pushes himself to outdo his rival, all for the sake of getting on his feet more and in his car less.
"Both my wife and I walk a lot. We challenge each other to take more steps on a daily basis and we talk about it all the time," Mokah said. "Our kids are always asking us what we're talking about. We've tried explaining it, and then this event came up."
The event was Polton's inaugural "Walk to School Day" on Oct. 4, an initiative that invited students, parents, teachers and staff members to draw on exercise for transport. Participants in the event, also referred to as "Walkin' and Wheelin'," were encouraged to walk or to use a bike, a scooter, a skateboard or any conveyance that relied on human locomotion instead of a combustion engine.
Mokah and his kids were among the dozens of Polton community members who took up the challenge early on a Wednesday morning. Before classes started in the school, they joined a crowd that included Cherry Creek School District administrators, Board of Education members and representatives from the city of Aurora milling near the building's outdoor amphitheater. The turnout helped parents like Mokah illustrate an important lesson about an active lifestyle, framed in the context of a "great neighborhood school."
"It's always good to walk and it's always good to be active," Mokah said. "It helps get the message across when everybody's doing it."
Creating that communal sense of wellness was an important driver behind the "Walk to School Day" at Polton, which coincides with similar events across the district and across the country. According to Polton Elementary School Librarian Timothy Hernandez, who was a lead organizer of the initiative, the goal was to spark conversation and encourage healthy behavior.
"Walking to school, skating, biking, scooting – all of those are forms of leaving the car at home and finding another way to get to your school," said Hernandez, who added that the event was part of a larger Healthy Living and Safe Routes to Initiative. "It's driving schools to really get their community to embrace the multi-modal forms of transportation."
Other schools in the Cherry Creek School District have taken part in the initiative in the past, but it was Polton's first year participating. Judging by the diversity of the crowd, the inaugural celebration tapped into an enthusiasm at all levels of the Polton community. CCSD Board Members Dave Willman and Janice McDonald were on hand, as was Aurora Fire Chief Fernando Gray and Aurora Mayor Pro-Tem Angela Lawson.
Representatives from Bicycle Village were on hand to fix flat tires, and a prize drawing for Polton students who'd walked to school featured a gift certificate to the Tattered Cover Bookstore as a top prize.
All of these elements lent the celebration the feel of a communal party, a celebration that highlighted Polton's role as a "great neighborhood school."
"It's great to see the kids walking in from the neighborhood with their parents. It was really successful in promoting personal health and the health of the planet," said Polton Principal Mike Chipman. "It really just showed, from a community perspective, how we can celebrate together. I really believe it also gives our new parents a sense of all of us being here together."
Mokah falls into the latter category. His family is new at the school, and the "Walk to School Day" event fit into a longer list of aspects of the school that have helped them feel welcome.
"They've inspired my kids to want to know things, to want to learn. There's an emphasis on how students feel," Mokah said. "It's been magical."