Representatives from Highland Elementary, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, the City of Ridgeland, Ridgeland Police Department, Ridgeland Fire Department, Indian Cycle Fitness & Outdoor, the PTO, Barnett’s Body Shop, and Automotive Color gather after the MAPE Governor’s Award luncheon.
Representatives from Highland Elementary, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, the City of Ridgeland, Ridgeland Police Department, Ridgeland Fire Department, Indian Cycle Fitness & Outdoor, the PTO, Barnett’s Body Shop, and Automotive Color gather after the MAPE Governor’s Award luncheon.
RIDGELAND — Deep into its second year, what started out as a small biking program during PE has been recognized with an award and, more importantly, put dozens of local children here on bicycles.

CYCLE Kids at Highland Elementary was recognized on March 1 by the Mississippi Association of Partners in Education during the 15th Annual Governor’s Awards Luncheon.

With many multi-use trails, the MagRidge bike track, multiple bike shops and an active cycling community, Ridgeland is a noted bicycle-friendly community. This made CYCLE Kids a perfect fit for Highland Elementary.

The eight-week program for fourth and fifth grade students uses the power of riding a bicycle to teach children the importance of physical activity and healthy habits and was brought to the school by parents in January of 2015.

Sissy Lynn, a parent involved with the program said that the program, has brought together support from multiple members of the community including representatives from both the Ridgeland Fire and Police departments and reaches roughly 450 students each year.

“It has been great to see all these people in the community come together to teach our students about cycling and fitness,” Lynn said. “Last year we did not realize how many students did not even know how to ride a bike. We taught at least 25 students that I know of how to ride and we gave countless others the confidence to continue or learn over the summer or at home.”

“Bringing CYCLE Kids to Highland Elementary has definitely been a community effort,” Highland Elementary Principal Paula Tharp said. “We’re so thankful to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation for funding CYCLE Kids and for the ongoing support of our community partners.”

Lynn said that local law enforcement and firefighters have been a major part in making the program a success.

“You just cannot put into words the looks on some of these kids faces as they get to work with actual police and firemen. Some of them have really gotten into it and I think it is great that these kids can put face to both firefighters and the police force.”

Lynn said that the program started with a $27,300 grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi’s charitable arm that covered bikes and equipment. Lynn said that their only stipulation was that the bikes be blue, which presented a problem because they could not find the bikes CYCLE Kids requires in blue.

The MAPE award recognized partners in the program that include Highland Elementary and Madison County Schools, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, the City of Ridgeland, Ridgeland Police Department, Ridgeland Fire Department, Indian Cycle and Fitness, CYCLE Kids, Highland Elementary PTO, Barnett’s Body Shop and Automotive Color for implementing a fitness nutrition and wellness program.

“The Governor’s Awards program is an opportunity to recognize outstanding partnerships and celebrate the positive impact they’re making in public schools,” Phil Hardwick, MAPE President, said. “Since introducing the Governor’s Awards 15 years ago, MAPE has collected a wealth of partnership success stories from all over the state that clearly demonstrates the connection between increased community involvement and improved student achievement.”

About 17 other awards were given out to other schools and school districts throughout the state.