CYCLE Kids helps teachers and families break the cycles of inactivity, poor nutrition habits, social isolation, and low self-esteem with a program that gives children life skills that help them achieve academic success, build self-confidence, and develop physical fitness.
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 wellbeing 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 wellbeing of our children.”
Ultimately, the Mayor celebrates the way the CYCLE Kids vision inspires a new, healthier mindset 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.
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone began his fifth term as Mayor of Somerville on January 2, 2012. Previously he served for eight years as an Alderman at Large. He earned his B.A. from Boston College in 1990, and a J.D. from New England School of Law in 1994.
Under his leadership, the City of Somerville has become a national and international leader in childhood obesity intervention. His successful obesity intervention programs are lauded by the White House and he has been called on by Michelle Obama to be a member of the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
Mayor Curtatone volunteers as an assistant coach for the Somerville High School football team and lives with his wife Nancy and their sons Cosmo, Joseph, Patrick, and James in the Ten Hills neighborhood of Somerville.