DETROIT—“Detroit youth need safer routes surrounding our schools,” says Trevon Stapleton, age 16, executive board member of YOUTH VOICE and 11th grader at Detroit Institute of Technology College Prep High School at Cody. “Sometimes when students walk home in the evenings, it is hard to see because streetlights don’t work.”
“... We also believe that fitness is important and want to create bike paths and walking trails to promote having a healthier lifestyle. If youth start to improve our communities so that they are safer when walking, I believe adults will support us.” ~ Trevon Stapleton
YOUTH VOICE, an organization of Detroit youth who tackle community and political issues to create change, participated in visioning sessions at Cody Detroit Institute of Technology, Cody Academy of Leadership, and Henry Ford High School to consider how the Transportation Alternatives Program could help with transportation challenges around three westside Detroit high schools.
The TAP in Detroit is a program of Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. It has grant funds available for expanding transportation choices and improving the transportation experience. TAP improvements include pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and safety programs, historic preservation and rehabilitation of transportation facilities, environmental mitigation activities, and safe routes to school programs.
YOUTH VOICE members will be partnering with TAP and others to complete walking audits around three high schools: Cody academies and institutes in the Cody Rouge neighborhood, Detroit Community School in the Brightmoor neighborhood, and Henry Ford High School in northwest Detroit. Teens will track routes that students take when leaving school.
The end result will be submitting a youth-driven application to SEMCOG for funding to improve these routes. YOUTH VOICE plans to approach DDOT or a city official to partner on a grant application for TAP funds from SEMCOG for improvements around the three schools. The application deadline is in December, with grant announcements slated for early 2014.
“Through this partnership, our goal is to improve our neighborhood streetlights and roads. We also believe that fitness is important and want to create bike paths and walking trails to promote having a healthier lifestyle,” says Stapleton. “If youth start to improve our communities so that they are safer when walking, I believe adults will support us.”
YOUTH VOICE has already worked on community revitalization projects in the Cody Rouge neighborhood at Stein Park. In early June, the group worked with The Greening of Detroit to plant 200 trees in the park, and it has plans to identify a trail for Stein Park that will make it easier and safer for students to get to and from school.
YOUTH VOICE is working with the statewide coalition, Transportation for Michigan and Safe Routes to School, and receiving technical support from Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Fitness Foundation and SEMCOG.
YOUTH VOICE has connected with community groups, like Cody Rouge Alliance and Brightmoor Woodworkers to glean community perspectives.
Contact your state legislators and let them know you back YOUTH VOICE, the Transportation Alternatives Program and Safer Routes to School.