Category Archives: teens


Creating Resilient Sons and Daughters

By: Gwen Froh – parent of a 20 year old son and a 23 year old daughter.

When your child asks for that last glass of water as you’re tucking her into bed, it’s hard to image her being grown and independent one day.  It happens, and for many of us who now have teens and young adults, it’s as though the Millennium Falcon transported our child into another universe at warp speed.  And, there’s no going back.

For those with kids in elementary school, it’s not too late to instill healthy habits that will matter later to your teen.  Here is a glimpse of what an older student and her parents say about the benefits of investing in active transportation at a young age … it pays off far more than one may realize.

When Jenna Neustaetter, Senior at Redwood High School and President of the Environmental Action Club, was asked what had a huge impact on her life, she reflects positively on her upbringing.   “The resiliency that I learn while growing up has given me the confidence in my own ability to carry myself through life.”  Jenna eagerly looks forward to college next year with the self-assurance to be on her own.

Jenna admits it was tough at times because her parents typically didn’t “give-in” to her desires for comfortable alternatives. “My parents didn’t give us a choice about walking or biking to school.  They wanted us to learn responsibility and independence – to become self sufficient.”


Jenna’s parents, Arnie and Corinna Neustaetter, carried on the tradition of walking and biking to school from their own childhood. Overcoming the obstacles of hills, distance and traffic, they shared the belief that “exposure to outdoor, physical challenges builds a child’s self-esteem and independence,” and reinforced that belief with the daily active commute.

The Neustaetters took action. They formed a neighborhood walking group when Jenna was in Kindergarten and took turns bringing kids to school.  The Neustaetters biked together on weekends, and often put Jenna in the lead to prove she knew how to handle herself.  They were reassured that Marin was generally safe, a bike friendly place with good bike education and infrastructure.  By 4th grade, they let go and put their trust into their child.

Jenna continues to bike to school even though the “rite of passage” of driving typically influences most Juniors and Seniors to drive. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Marin Seniors drive to school, so Jenna clearly is in the minority.  “Biking to school feels more normal to me than driving. I love starting my day outside – yes Its cold, but it wakes me up and I honestly believe it sets me up for better learning.”  She adds, “I’m never in a bad mood when I arrive to school on my bike,” and attributes increased teen stress to worrying about arriving to school on time to fight for parking spots; it’s not a fun way to start the day.

“I pass parents biking to school with their kids, Jenna says. “We smile at each other as though we share a secret happiness.”

The Amazing Transit Race Poster

Teens Discover Independence in the Amazing Transit Race

“It’s fun because you feel independent; you don’t have to rely upon your parents to take you places – it’s your own thing – it’s pretty cool.”

Students leave for the Amazing Transit Race

Students leave for the Amazing Transit Race

A Terra Linda High School student expressed the essence of teen motivation – independence – at the Amazing Transit Race sponsored by Marin Transit last December.  Fostering autonomy and self-reliance is an important step for parents to nurture in their teenage.  Giving teens the opportunity to problem solve and learn adult skills, builds confidence and promotes self-esteem as teens branch out into the wider world.

Last fall, Terra Linda High School students partnered with Safe Routes to Schools to create The Amazing Transit Race – a race which was hugely popular because it taught skills for independence while being a socially engaging and fun.  The goal of the race was to expose students to the ease with which they could ride the bus throughout Marin County.  According to another student, “It’s [riding the bus] a lot easier than most people think it is.”  Sometimes, you just need to provide the first step for teens to try something new in order to encourage future behavior.  The race afforded this opportunity for students to learn how to be self-sufficient with their local bus system –  a skill which is transferable when they might travel to other cities and be able to travel without a car.

MSEL students with Marin Transit webThe Amazing Transit Race was designed by students from Marin School of Environmental Studies (MSEL) which resides at Terra Linda High School.  The race was like a scavenger hunt with photos.  Students were given a map with various points of interest marked on the map and were told to take a team photo of their group at the designated locations spread throughout the county.  Students traveled from Northgate Mall which hosted the race, to Novato, San Rafael, San Anselmo and Fairfax, and finished back at Northgate Mall where our student leaders counted the points for each team and determined the winners.  The team which came in first place won a GoPro Camera for each of the four students.

“We learned a lot about the bus system.” said a member of the winning team.  “I’ll definitely be getting a bus pass on my school ID next year, save on gas, meet a lot of people. We met some interesting people on the bus.  It’s a lot easier than most people think.  I heard a lot of people say they’d take the bus now that they knew how easy it was.”

About Marin Transit

Marin Transit provides affordable and environmentally friendly options for travel throughout Marin County.  Students under 18 years of age pay just $1.00 per trip which includes getting a transfer pass to take multiple busses going in one direction for up to four hours. Students can also purchase Clipper Cards and Youth Passes with stored values for multiple trips.  Since 62% of all carbon emissions in the Bay Area is due to transportation, this is compelling reason for more people to take public transportation.

Last year, Marin Transit increased its ridership and provided additional services, while keeping expenses in control.  The Marin IJ reported Supervisor, Katie Rice saying, the agency had “a long list of accomplishments large and small” which included expanded Shuttle service to Muir Woods, increased transit rides for rural residents, seniors and the disabled, purchasing 11 hybrid buses and 16 paratransit vehicles, and engineered bus stop improvement projects. (Johnson, Marin IJ, 1/26/15;  Marin Transit also provides a West Marin stagecoach to Point Reyes and service from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach.  It subcontracts with other agencies to provide service to many Marin schools and the Marin Airporter, Golden Gate Transit, and Whistle Stop Wheels which serves the elderly.  As ridership increases and as public transportation becomes more utilized in our county, we can look forward to a further increase in service by a public agency