KAILUA-KONA — Safe Routes to School, Walking Bus, Pedestrian Safety and Bike Education are just some of the programs created by the People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii — or PATH — that gained the organization’s head national recognition over the weekend.
Tina Clothier, PATH executive director, was named to Kaiser Permanente’s 2018 Thriving Schools Honor Roll, a program that recognizes individuals who are championing sustainable, healthy school environments. Individuals are nominated by Kaiser Permanente staff who are familiar with their organizational work.
“I was delighted! It came out of the blue,” said Clothier. “I was very surprised and felt very honored especially since we’re the only nonprofit in the list of awardees and the only one from Hawaii.”
Kaiser described Clothier in a press release as convener, innovator and bold leader.
“These are the titles that are used to describe the way that Tina Clothier goes about her work,” a press release from Kaiser Permanente said about the award. “Tina has been instrumental in building support for active transportation, particularly among Hawaii’s schools.”
She was presented the award on Saturday at a PATH general meeting.
“It means a tremendous amount to me and to our organization,” the executive director said.
Founded in 1986, PATH strives to safely connect people and places in Hawaii Island with pathways and bikeways. Since taking the helm in 2013, Clothier has been building support for the use of these new avenues for school students through programs like Safe Routes to School.
Safe Routes to School — developed in 1999 — originated in Hawaii due to the increasing obesity levels in elementary school children. The program works to provide safe ways for students to walk or bike to school by encouraging the behavior of walking school buses or bike trains.
The program has also opened pedestrian links between neighborhoods and schools, created crosswalks at strategic locations, re-striped and repainted shoulders and crosswalks, and added signage along pedestrian routes.
“We facilitate between the school and the public and the department of public works and also the department of transportation,” Clothier said. “We all work together to try and come up with solutions for making it safer for our keiki to walk or bike to school.”
Clothier added that approximately 4 percent of the entire elementary school population walks to school. PATH, around the time the program started two decades ago, conducted a study in nine schools across the island and found that 10 percent of over 8,000 students walked to school.
PATH hopes to increase the current percentage by working with schools and Blue Zones to organize “Walk to School Days” twice a year.
Last year, 12 schools took part in the Walk to School event totaling about 1,400 participants. This activity encourages participants to experience the benefits of walking to school. One of which is fitness and exercise for students.
“The intention there is that if kids are able to walk or bike to school than they get that 15 or 20 minutes of exercise in the morning and in the afternoon that they’re not getting otherwise and that helps to bring down those obesity levels,” Clothier said.
Clothier and PATH also played a key role in the establishment of the Mayor’s Active Living Advisory Committee, an advisory group that works with the mayor to enact policies and initiatives that foster safe, healthy, and active schools and communities.
Clothier moved to the Big Island from Oahu in 1979. Before joining PATH, she had a 16-year career with the American Cancer Society where she became the chief staff officer for the Hawaii Pacific Region. She is active in the Rotary Club of Kona and the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and enjoys scuba diving, golf, hiking and photography.
Clothier is one of 19 recipients of the national honor. This recognition inspires PATH to continue to make a healthy impact on the community and schools.
“We certainly want to continue and to expand our bike ed and ped ed program and use this recognition as sort of a springboard to increase our safe routes and school work,” she said.