Leader Profile: Tracy Nachand
An interview with Tracy Nachand of the Solano County Department of Public Health.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Senior Health Education Specialist with the Solano County Department of Public Health. In 2008, we partnered with the Solano Transportation Authority (STA) to implement the education and encouragement component of Safe Routes to School (SR2S). Our target population is elementary school students. We coordinate safety assemblies, bike rodeos, weekly walk and roll events, walk to school day, and bike to school day. We also developed the walking school bus training guide.
Do you have a specific memory or moment that made you want to work in your field?
Last year, I gave a presentation to promote Bike to School Day and the SR2S program at the Regional Parent Teacher’s Association meeting. Afterward, one of the participants gave me a hug. She was the president of the Foxboro Elementary PTA and said I helped save her son’s life. A month before he was involved in a bike crash, I had given him a helmet. He lost a tooth, scratched his face, and his helmet was mangled but without the helmet, he may have suffered serious brain damage.
What are some major issues facing your community and how does your work address them?
Our challenge is to promote the SR2S program to not only schools, but also to parents. Some of the school districts in our area changed school boundaries and the longer distances make it hard for parents to walk with their children to school. To help parents find a “Park and Walk” route, the Solano Safe Routes to School website has a mapping tool that shows parents options. Walking one or two days out of a week is better than none!
The other challenge is to reach over 60 schools each year countywide. One new encouragement program we offer is providing free helmets to students who bike to school, but who don’t have helmets. We meet with those students, give them a helmet, and educate them on bicycle safety. To reach schools, the SR2S program now has three Walking School Bus coordinators who work with schools to help parents share the trip to school.
What advice would you give to someone interested in supporting similar work?
Be persistent and try to find champions. Find one to two schools that are shining stars, put energy into encouraging them and hopefully others will follow that lead and want to get involved. Get involved with the PTA because they are your volunteers.
Are there any resources that have been particularly helpful to you?
The California Technical Assistance Resource Center (TARC), the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and ChangeLab Solutions have been useful to start the program.