Leader Profile: Rosie Mesterhazy

An interview with Rosie Mesterhazy, Fire Up Your Feet Program Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a Fire Up Your Feet Program Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. We are a nonprofit organization that improves the quality of life for kids and communities by promoting active, healthy lifestyles and safe infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking. I've been moving with the Safe Routes to School program for almost 10 years! I live in Oakland and walk, bike and BART everywhere. I'm still a proud owner of NO car, and am looking forward to buying a cargo bike that I can take my son Jonathan on rides with once he is old enough.

What are some major issues facing your community and how does your work address them?

In 1969, nearly 50% of all children walked or bicycled to school.Today, just 13% walk or bicycle. The consequence of our inactive lifestyles is cause for alarm. Did you know that with our current trends, it is widely accepted that today’s children will be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents’? Daily physical activity such as walking and bicycling helps improve our quality of life by reducing pollution around schools, preventing chronic illnesses, increasing academic performance and creating opportunities for safe and fun outdoor activity. All kids and communities deserve access to safe streets and strong, healthy communities. Fire Up Your Feet lives up to it's name by helping more students, school staff and parents get active and moving.

What barriers have you had to overcome to make an impact in your community?

Fire Up Your Feet is an online activity tracking program that offers Challenges in the spring and the fall. Schools with the most students, staff and parents tracking activity have the chance to earn awards that can be used for any health or wellness program of the school's choosing. While some families cannot easily access the Internet, we resolve this barrier by offering paper-based trackers that teachers can use to track for students. Also the program is currently only available to K-8 schools, although I'd love to help make the program available to high schools in the future! A number of other awards are also available to schools participating in Walk to School Day, schools with the most bicycling minutes recorded etc. You can visit our website for more information about the award offerings.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in supporting similar work?

I'd encourage them to register for the Fire Up Your Feet Challenge at www.fireupyourfeet.org. The Challenge runs from Oct. 1-31. More than $40,000 in awards are available to California K-8 schools. For a great example of a Fire Up Your Feet success story, check out this cool Fire Up Your Feet video from our California first place award winning friends at Cherryland Elementary in Hayward, and feel free to email me at [email protected] with questions. I'm happy to help reach out and get our local schools Fired Up for health and wellness!