AARP Alaska 

Alaskans to be chosen for Walking College fellowship


April 1, 2023 | View PDF

As part of the Anchorage Age Friendly community initiative, AARP Alaska is covering the tuition for seven Alaskans to be a part of the Walking College through America Walks. The Walking College is a six-month, distance-learning fellowship program designed to build the capacity of local advocates to create and expand livable, walkable communities. At the end of the course each fellow will develop a walking action plan for their community.

Two Alaskans have already completed the Walking College course: Charles Bingham from Sitka and Maja Pedersen from Fairbanks. They continue to make a difference in their communities. Applications for Alaska’s new cohort of Walking College Fellows are now being reviewed by a selection committee of representatives from AARP Alaska and America Walks.

The training modules for the course include historical information on how we, as a society, developed the communities that we live in now and the transportation systems we use. There is also information on leadership, how to inspire others to take action, and how to start a movement for change. Then the fellows learn community organization such as strategic communications planning events and organizing community members. Next the fellows learn about making communities walkable. They learn how to host walk audits, measures to calm traffic, about pedestrian infrastructure and how to do pop-up events to help communities envision what a change might look like. Lastly, the fellows are taught how to review public policy, including looking at their community’s Complete Street and Vision Zero plans.

At the end of the course, the fellows bring all this information together to develop a walking action plan for their community. These plans can include anything of interest to the fellow that helps make their community more walkable. Some examples of walking action plans completed by past fellows include:

starting a weekly walking group in their community

get the mayor to proclaim a walking day

advocate for funding for a specific trail improvement

complete a grant application for funding for a project

complete a walk audit of trails or neighborhoods and then advocate to get issues fixed

host a pop-up crosswalk to see what kind of difference it makes to slow traffic on a specific street

create a “Super Steppers” program teaching students how to safely walk to school

create a unity mural along a walking path

The Walking College was launched in 2015 by America Walks to build the capacity of local advocates to create and expand livable, walkable communities across the U.S. During the first eight years of the program, 180 fellows have received skills training in community change strategies, acquired a national network of peer experts, and started implementing locally-focused Walking Action Plans. As a result, thousands of positive outcomes have occurred in communities across America, including adoption of dozens of new policies and projects designed to slow down traffic and improve the pedestrian experience.

Look for another article in the Senior Voice this fall to learn about the walking action plans from the seven Alaskans who complete Alaska’s Walking College course.


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