Stepping for Students 

Walkers commit to volunteer at Memphis City Schools.

When Denise Rupert says she wants the local community to help students take steps toward success, she means it almost literally. Rupert, the coordinator of the Making Advance Plans for Success (MAPS) program for the Memphis City Schools, decided to hold a walkathon April 3rd at East High School to spur community involvement in the program. MAPS, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, helps minority students in 7th through 11th grades prepare for college with the assistance of tutors and mentors.

Each mile walked will act as a pledge for one hour of community service -- which can include mentoring students or assisting teachers -- in a MAPS school or one of the city's 22 "corrective action" schools.

"People can show their general support of the school system and get their exercise at the same time," Rupert said. "Everybody is into exercising these days. They're on Atkins [diets] or they're counting their steps. I thought, What if we have people run for MCS?"

Eventually, she decided walking was a better fit. A group of parents from Manassas has formed a team, and a church group has already pledged 50 miles that morning -- and there's only five of them.

"I thought, Wow. That's going to be some power walking," she said.

Rupert is hoping the walkathon will also help parents and community members. The event will include a health fair and blood-pressure screenings by Le Bonheur Methodist.

"The focus is on helping kids and closing the achievement gap ... but especially in the African-American community, we wanted to make them aware of the benefits of walking," she said. n

E-mail: cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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