Safe Routes to Schools Staff Highlight

Marielena Gutierrez
Marielena Gutierrez

Georgia Bikes is a statewide organization that works across Georgia to support communities in creating environments that are appropriate for smart bicycling.  Our work requires collaborations with many organizations and individuals who are local and involved to see this vision accomplished.  Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Resource Center in Georgia works in five regions across the state; North, Southwest, Metro Atlanta, Coastal, and East Central, with a dedicate staff member in these areas.  There are a number of available resources and services communities are about to receive free of charge to make their school communities a safer, fun, and well designed environments for everyone to have the option to bicycle.

Here is an interview with the newest member to the team, Marielena Gutierrez, she works in Metro Atlanta, covering Clayton, DeKalb, and Fulton.  She works in the position formerly held by Nichole Hollis.  If your school community is looking to get students walking and biking to school or different ways to increase physical activity during the school, this interview will cover the services offered and how to make contact with SRTS Georgia.

What is your position with SRTS?  What do you do?

I am Marielena Gutierrez and am an Outreach Coordinator with SRTS in Metro Atlanta serving Clayton, DeKalb, and Fulton counties.  I encourage students and schools to walk or bike in a safe way.  Our project is based on the Six Es which are:

  • Engineering
  • Encouragement
  • Education
  • Evaluation
  • Enforcement
  • Equity

I coordinate events like International Walk to School Day or “I Walk”, help schools coordinate making safe routes with planners, engineers, and schools to increase safety, provide materials and resources free to partner schools, attend career days, visit after-school programs and libraries, and give the “Crossing Award” to crossing guards.  Additionally I work closely with School Champions who are either staff, parents or school liasion, who coordinate events in schools.  

What do you find most rewarding about your role?

Working directly with children is the most rewarding.  When I am out and able to teach something, seeing them enjoy learning makes me happy!  I enjoy serving communities regardless of status and getting parents involved.  The goal is to build a new generation and we are planting the seeds for that growth towards more active lifestyles.

What parts of your role do you feel add the most value to the school community?

Everything is important!  Education however is the key.  Events can be adopted on a weekly or monthly basis, it all depends on the school’s commitment level to making progress.  It is exciting and schools benefit more when they are more engaged in the events and more active.

What are ways you think school communities must change to make them safer environments for students to walk or ride a bike?

This is also a combination of everything!  Children must be educated to have knowledge about safety.  Drivers also need more information because many are not aware of the dangers.  Speed control which is a design and engineering issue must also be addressed.  Without any changes, there will be more crashes on school campuses.  All the pieces together are important.

How can schools get involved with SRTS?

It is easy!  Schools, parents, teachers may contact the Resource Center by calling, emailing; all the information is on the website.

What are some successes you’ve had this year?

There was a high number of participants and participating schools in “I Walk/” International Walk to School Day this year.  A total of 61 schools in DeKalb, Clayton, and Fulton in both elementary and middle school.  The City of Decatur had a high participation and Westchester Elementary had a total of 77% students participate in “Walk and Roll”, their version of “I Walk”. That made them won the “Golden Shoe Award”.  We are also reaching the Hispanic community.  This year I was able to provide information in Spanish to students in assemblies and classes about safety.

What do you do when not working?

I like to go to the gym, to cook, eating, hanging out going to concerts, festivals and being with friends and family!