The Northwest Michigan Strong Project
Norte is a youth-focused, active transportation-centered, neighborhood-based advocacy organization based in Traverse City. We believe that kids learning to move and be physically active as part of ordinary life – like walking or biking to school – and then inspiring their parents, teachers, principals, and neighbors to do the same is a powerful means to sustainable community health.
Norte currently administers the Safe Routes To School (SRTS) initiative across the Traverse City area as well as in Northport and Elk Rapids. Our programs and events are dedicated to empowering students of all ages to be active for life at 22 schools (and counting!). With support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Norte can grow programs in at least nine additional schools in five new communities. With the same bottom-up model that has succeeded to date and, through the following educational programs and supporting encouragement programs and events, gives youth the skills, confidence, and opportunity to adopt freedom on two wheels as a way of life.
Norte’s school-based education programs:
- The Bike Mas Project: An adventure-based after-school empowerment program for upper elementary and middle school students. (4-week program in both spring and fall)
- Estrellas: A learn-to-ride program for preschoolers using balance bikes. (4-week indoor in the gym during the winter)
- Solution: A learn-to-wrench program for upper elementary and middle school students.
Norte’s school encouragement programs and events:
- Fridays Fantástico: A weekly celebration of students walking, biking and rolling to school.
- The Great Northern Michigan Bike Train Experiment: A community-wide network of adult-led bike trains connecting schools in northern Michigan.
- Winter Walk Wednesdays: A #StepItUp inspired celebration of people – big or small – walking to work, school or just for FUN! in Traverse City.
- Park & Stroll: For those students who attend a school of choice or live too far away from their home school. Drive. Park. Walk 5 minutes to school. Easy.
- Bike2Bus: Portable bike racks at neighborhood bus stops and mapping of safe routes to these racks to encourage “biking to bus”.
- Norte Bike Library: Ensuring that awesome kids have awesome bikes to pedal to school no matter their family’s resources.
- Northern Michigan Bikes to School Day: 2nd Wednesday in May for National Bike to School Day.
- Northern Michigan Walks to School Day: 1st Wednesday in October for National Walk to School Day.
- Winter Bike To Work and School Day: 2nd Friday in February for International Winter Bike To Work and School Day
- Safe Routes To School Hero Awards: Last week of school to celebrate walk/bike to school rockstars
We believe that change is local. Micro-level, actually. Family by family. Street by street. Neighborhood by neighborhood. Norte has developed a grassroots method that finds, recruits, trains, and empowers like-minded parents to own active transportation initiative at their school. This bottom-up model – in which neighborhood champions are tasked to find their successors when their child ages out of the school – is what will allow this expansion to be sustainable for the indefinite future.
These champions support and are supported by others in their community, including Norte staff and paid instructors that deliver the educational programming (The Bike Más Project and Estrellas). To kick-start this expansion in areas where Norte is new, we will work directly with area schools and like-minded local organizations to identify future walk/bike leaders and interested youth. These partnerships will allow Norte to reach more young people in the Grand Traverse region and engage, excite, and empower them to move more as part of ordinary life. This approach not only replicates the successful recipe in the first 22 schools where Norte has been active, it builds a solid foundation for deeper collaborations with these schools and organizations to address other aspects of health and wellness that complement Norte’s mission.
Norte has invested significant time and energy in developing this inclusive four initiative model that has shown it can get 2,000 young people moving year-round in a small northwestern Michigan town. By sharing knowledge, tools, and experiences of what works well and what doesn’t, Norte will be a resource and guide to help communities empower their young people to be active for life.
Interested? Learn more by completing this form: