Name: Rebecca Watson

Occupation: Walking School Bus Leader

Can be Spotted: Weekday mornings and afternoons along Neff Rd.

Meet Rebecca, one of the star Leaders that guide elementary school children to and from school every day as part of Commute Options’ Walking School Bus program. A Leader at Juniper Elementary, she helms one of the most popular routes, walking with anywhere from eight to thirteen kids, twice a day, five days a week. What’s more, her route runs along the busy Neff Rd, along the north edge of Pilot Butte.

Rebecca herself is a parent of a student at Juniper, and first heard about the program at a Back-to-School Night. According to Rebecca, “I started as a volunteer, walking with the Walking School Bus a few times a week last year. I decided to volunteer when I saw the positive changes in my daughter’s mood.”

Rebecca took over the route after her predecessor, another Juniper parent, announced she was moving out of town. So Rebecca decided to step up: “If I have to do it, if it’s my job, I’m not going to sit on the couch in my pajamas instead of walking in the morning.” It’s this reciprocal benefit, she says, that’s one of her favorite parts of leading the Juniper route. As she encourages students to walk every day, she in turn sees those same benefits in her own mood and mental health.

Since taking over the Juniper route, Rebecca reports big improvements in the behaviors of several kids. Their parents have noticed the same. She chalks it up to simple consistency. “We walk on the sidewalk. We don’t climb on stuff,” she laughs. To Rebecca, knowing what to expect from the boundaries she sets up helps her walkers learn how to have fun en route in safe, companionable ways. In fact, recently, a few students have taken on responsibility with Rebecca’s youngest child. They push her stroller or retrieve dropped mittens. Incredibly, these are the same students that just a few weeks before were exhibiting some of the most “difficult” behavior.

Rebecca’s experience is representative of the core values of the Walking School Bus Program. By providing active transportation alternatives, Rebecca is supporting and being supported by her community in many surprising ways.