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Ready-to-learn kids and Missy

Watching Lowell High School win their eighth straight state team wrestling championship two weeks ago reminded me of my favorite Red Arrow, Missy.

Missy is smart, driven, and direct. She is strong-willed and determined. Above all, Missy is a leader.

I was fortunate to witness that leadership in action while working with Missy, then the city of Traverse City’s planning assistant, on an ambitious $2 million Safe Routes To School project to improve access, increase connections, and safety around our 10 in-town schools. A transformative project that began five years ago in 2016 and featured many walking audits, parent and student surveys, and action planning meetings along the way.

A game-changing project that will come to fruition this summer with 3.5 miles of new sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, and improved crosswalks for our neighborhood schools. A community-wide project that collaborated with all four school districts as well as many partners including Northwestern Michigan College, Michigan Department of Transformation, Grand Traverse County, Garfield Township, and TART.

A first-of-its-kind-for-Michigan project because it also includes an innovative 3-year “systems change” component funded by Rotary Charities that supports upstream solutions focused on mind-sets, policy, advocacy, and education. A project that, in my opinion, would not have happened without Missy.

She was the driving force of a dream team that came together in 2016. This talented crew included Jessica Carpenter, Tim Lodge, Alex Yockey, Russ Soyring, Meg Thomas-Ackerman, Debbie Hershey, and Laura Otwell. Together they kept the focus and navigated with calm and professionalism in support of kids walking and biking to school.

A former Willow Hill Elementary mom — Go, Falcons! — Missy is a champion for ready-to-learn kids.

  • Kids who can safely, independently, and confidently get themselves to school.
  • Kids who arrive to class with their brains turned on because they were able to get the wiggles out first.
  • Kids like her boys, David and Jack, who love to get out and explore.

Missy received a master’s degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University in 2018 and now lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina where she works as their senior planner but her legacy here in Traverse City is undeniable.

In addition to the Safe Routes To School project, Missy was also instrumental in the Slabtown beach and bayside extension trail, 9 miles of new sidewalk in Traverse Heights, the pedestrian crossing lights on the parkway, and the re-envisioned Eighth Street.

These successes didn’t come easy. Despite many challenges, Missy didn’t quit. She kept pushing and working hard to see these projects through. Projects that would change the odds in favor of health, happiness, and social connections. Projects that made her community better for everyone.

“Never Yield” is the motto of the Lowell wrestling team and I think Coach Boudro and his Red Arrow squad would be proud of their alumnus for living that creed.

On behalf of countless ready-to-learn kids today and for generations to come, thank you, Missy.

 

*A version of this article was originally published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on April 8, 2021.
Photo credit, Tessa Lighty from 10 schools in TC seeking money for safer routes in 2018. 
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