D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) – "Make sure we stick together and walk a steady pace, okay?" a police officer told a group of more than 200 D'Iberville Middle School students.
They gathered at Rudy Moran Park before the morning bell Wednesday, and paused for a short prayer.
"Dear God, thank you for this day and for the opportunity for us to walk today. We ask that you give us safety as we walk to school," a girl recited.
Many of the children in the crowd had never walked to school before.
"I usually ride the bus, but sometimes I'm trying to get my parents to agree with me so I can start riding my bike to get my exercise," said seventh grader Shawn Orr.
Angela Higgins came to support her son.
"He rides the bus, but I try to get him to walk as much as he can," she said.
On International Walk to School Day Wednesday, the students eagerly laced up their sneakers and hit the road.
"They get a little exercise out of it and also highlight the fact that hey, walking to school is not such a bad deal," said Principal Dean Scarbrough. "We'll be focusing on sidewalk safety, sticking together, wave if you need help, and don't talk to strangers."
The school principal, parents, and police officers joined the march. Together, they took a three-quarter mile trek along Lamey Bridge Road to the school. Some ran. Others took a leisurely stroll. One young lady even limped along on a sprained ankle.
When asked why was walking with a cast on her leg, seventh grader Anna Patricelli replied, "Just to support the walkers. Plus, the cheerleaders had to walk. But I would do it anyway."
The group had to walk on the street because there are no sidewalks on Lamey Bridge Road. One of the major goals of the national movement is to push for safer places for children to walk and ride their bikes.
"We're applying for a grant for sidewalks on the side of Lamey Bridge Road. This is what it's all about," said Scarbrough.
It's a huge step towards giving students a safer path and a healthy start to their day.
Lizana Elementary, North Woolmarket Elementary and Middle School, and five elementary schools in the Pascagoula School District were among the schools that participated in Walk to School Day.