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From Teaching Kids to Working for Their Health


What do you do after 18 years of teaching high school? For Leader Ned Barrett, the answer was obvious: work for a nonprofit! It runs in his family, he says. Now, he’s found the perfect balance of nonprofit work and still being able to help children.

Ned works for Partners for Active Living, a Spartanburg, South Carolina-based organization that works toward childhood obesity prevention mainly through trail development and encouraging walking and biking.

After almost two decades of teaching, Ned started in the nonprofit world working with land use planning advocacy, where he learned how community design can have an effect on a population’s activity levels. Then, Partners for Active Living received a Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that kick-started their childhood obesity and community design work.

“I jumped at the opportunity to merge my belief in active transportation for health and happiness to my affinity for engaging the public in making changes,” he remembers.

Now, Ned is the trail coordinator for Partners for Active Living, and explains that he is tasked with working with a number of partners – neighborhood associations, school districts, Departments of Transportation – to implement a robust trails plan that will result in “more miles of connected, off-road trails for recreation and transportation that connect existing trails and important destinations into a more complete system.”

Partners for Active Living also operates bike sharing and lending programs, hosts cycling and walking events, and works with schools to limit unhealthy food access and encourage physical activity.

“Our elected leaders and appointed officials understand the reasons we do what we do, and over years of hard work and accomplishment, we have placed ourselves in a position of high credibility. The partnerships we have developed are high-functioning, multi-level and populated with diverse representation,” Ned explains.

Ned notes that this type of work is very rewarding, and he encourages everyone to get involved in their community: “The best way to get involved is to participate in helping to improve your community's health. Go to meetings, start a walking club, promote trail development with your elected officials.”

In addition to benefitting the community as a whole, Ned understands that this work also personally rewarding: “I have worked with a number of community groups through the years. When one of those groups finds its voice, sees change enacted and celebrates victories, I feel pretty darn good about my work.”

To learn more about Ned and his work, visit his profile.