Photo: L to R standing behind hemet student recipient, Attorney Marc L. Breakstone, Somerville Community Police Officer Marianne Manfra and Deputy Police Chief Michael Carbral presenting Officer Manfra an award for her devotion to keeping our kids safe
By William Tauro
Last Tuesday morning at the Dr. Albert F. Argenziano School in Somerville dozens of students from that school assembled in the school gymnasium to receive a great gift of dozens of donated bicycle helmets.
The bicycle helmets were generously donated to the school children by Attorney Marc L. Breakstone and his law firm of “Breakstone, White Gluck Attorneys at Law” of Boston MA.
Attorney Marc L. Breakstone said “Our firm is honored to be associated with CYCLE Kids which does such an incredible job educating kids in bike safety and healthy lifestyle choices.”
It’s all part of a bicycle safety program called CYCLE Kids.org that has been around for over ten years that focuses upon bicycle rider safety for the kids.
Somerville Community Police Officer Marianne Manfra a very strong advocate for bicycle safety for many years here in Somerville has been continuously involved with bicycle safety issues and now her message is going much further into the community.
At the event community leaders such as Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Superintendent of Schools Anthony Pierantozzi and Deputy Police Chief Michael Cabral were in attendance helping distribute the helmets to the children and all are in strong support of Officer Manfra’s efforts.
Doti Wedge-Metivier, a lifelong Somerville resident and parent posted a comment regarding Somerville Police Officer Manfra’s efforts, “She’s been a fantastic role model and always gives of herself to communities and schools!”
Toni Shelzi, a local Somerville realtor posted “Officer Manfra is an inspiration to us all, she has indeed been dedicated to bike safety for kids.”
Retired Somerville Police Deputy Chief Paul Upton said in a comment “Officer Manfra is a shining example of what community policing should be. She has been very dedicated to bike safety for kids and especially the CYCLE Kids program in the local schools which she is totally responsible for bringing to Somerville. Well done Officer Manfra.”
Previously when a private grant enabled CYCLE Kids to give the city of Somerville, MA seven programs, Mayor Joseph Curtatone became enthusiastically involved with the program implementation. The close ties to much of what he has done for his community makes CYCLE Kids a perfect match for his city.
According to Mayor Curtatone, surveys in 2004 revealed that 46% of children in the Somerville community were either obese or at risk of being obese. He recognized that if this trend was not reversed, today’s children would become the most unhealthy generation in the history of our country; a realization that caused him to launch programs integrating healthier choices in school lunches and creating bike lanes to make cycling safer for children and families. The addition of the CYCLE Kids program to the Somerville Public Schools fit perfectly with Mayor Curtatone’s plan, “… adding an innovative and creative way to teach children to make good decisions that will help them eat smart, play hard, and move more.”
“The CYCLE Kids program is reaching a susceptible population of racial and ethnic minorities in our community,” according to Mayor Curtatone. He acknowledges that many children in Somerville, a densely populated and diverse area, would not have access to a bike without participating in a CYCLE Kids class. “The program gives our children more avenues for active living and physical activity, and is a strong, positive influence in our neighborhoods and schools.”
Mayor Curtatone believes that “the great innovation of CYCLE Kids lies in synergizing academic and physical activities together. The program not only gives kids a chance to exercise, but it also gives teachers the opportunity to use the program for reading and writing activities in the classroom.” Children love to ride bikes during the school day, creating an enthusiasm at the end of gym class, which is easily harnessed in the classroom and directed towards activities about bike riding and healthy choices that encourage literacy. By cultivating their interest in cycling, teachers are able to encourage a love for learning.
The Mayor points out that the CYCLE Kids program also provides an important benefit for special needs children. According to studies, more opportunities for physical activity can help special needs children focus more, translating into better performance in the classroom and better overall well being of these students. With the introduction of the CYCLE Kids program, he says, “these children have the opportunity to exert their natural energy on a bike, giving them more ability to focus in a classroom.”
Mayor Curtatone recognizes the many different impacts the CYCLE Kids program has on the community and considers the involvement of the community police to be one of the most important. “The role of the police department in the CYCLE Kids program is uniquely beneficial,” he says. Focusing on public safety is an important component in encouraging community members to be active and ride outside. The involvement of community police in the CYCLE Kids program helps to build trust, easing parents’ concerns about their children riding bikes outdoors. The department directly benefits from the bonds formed between the police and the community. This bond helps the police communicate and work with citizens to solve issues in the city’s neighborhoods before they become crimes. “The community trusts and takes pride in a police force that has an active role in improving the overall health, safety, and well being of our children.”
Ultimately, the Mayor celebrates the way the CYCLE Kids vision inspires a new, healthier mind set in youth. “To help inspire change in the community as a whole,” says Mayor Curtatone, “we want children to carry this new mindset out into their neighborhoods. We want them to go home and tell their parents!” Mayor Joseph Curtatone hopes to show his community that “the healthy choice should be the easy choice” and that the CYCLE Kids mission makes biking a healthy and easy choice for children and their families.