Local infrastructure is changing. New life and vitality can be recognized in various neighborhoods throughout the city of Rochester.
As Rochester evolves, these efforts are also positively impacting the health and wellness journey of Rochester residents, says one Black woman who has been silently revolutionizing health and wellness work, breaking barriers, and supporting community members on their journey towards a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Meet Karen Rogers, the visionary founder of EE Pathways, formerly known as Exercise Express, a renowned health and wellness company dedicated to transforming lives through physical activity, empowerment, and health education.
With over two decades of experience in the health and wellness sector, Rogers has become a shining beacon of inspiration for countless individuals in Rochester. Her passion for promoting health and wellness has not only resulted in the successful establishment of EE Pathways but has also cultivated a movement that centers on the joy of bicycling as a source of fun and support for health and wellness goals.
Bicycling, a simple yet powerful activity to support health goals, holds a special place in Rogers heart. It represents not only a means of transportation but also a way to connect with nature and communities. Through her tireless efforts, Rogers has been working hand in hand with a successful team of health and wellness educators, community partners, and dedicated bicyclists across the region to promote the benefits of cycling and to take advantage of accessible pathways and bike lanes that are popping up throughout the city.
"Revitalization is not just about constructing buildings or improving roads; it's also about empowering our communities to reconnect with their roots, embrace their unique heritage, and accomplish health and wellness goals, " says Rogers. "By prioritizing bicycles and walkability in our work, we not only promote accessibility, but we also create opportunities for everyone to explore the rich history and culture that lie within our city while promoting fun ways to exercise.”
However, amidst all the accomplishments, Rogers is aware that representation of Black people on bicycles and Black professionals helping make decisions about local efforts that involve bicycling is limited.. Rogers says health disparities in predominantly Black communities is also a result of the lack of engaging Black voices and Black professionals across the health and wellness spectrum.
In 2021, Common Ground Health released a report called The Color of Health: The Devastating Toll on Black Lives. The report suggests to improve health for Black residents, a deeper commitment to policies and programs that eliminate racial disparities are necessary, including pushing for racial equity to be a strategic priority for boards of directors and organizational leaders. This resonates with Rogers who believes that in order to do this, more Black and Brown people are needed at every level of health care. This is why she is committed to supporting the training, hiring, and retention of Black health professionals, something The Color of Health also calls for.
While progress is being made, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the diverse perspectives and needs of the community are at the forefront of ideas and local decision-making for initiatives that can be aligned with improving the health and wellness of local residents.
One way Rogers is doing this is by collaborating with the City of Rochester’s Department of Recreation and Human Services, and Reconnect Rochester, a nonprofit that champions transportation choices for a more vibrant and equitable community, with Flower City Feeling Good Bike Rides. Through October 4 local residents are encouraged to join the rides. One of EE Pathways goals is to get more Black residents on bikes.
"Representation matters, even on two wheels,” said Rogers. “In a city where the sight of mostly white bicyclists dominates, it is crucial for Black bicyclists to take the lead. By pedaling our way through our streets, we not only break down stereotypes and barriers but inspire others to join the movement of prioritizing their health goals in a fun way. As Black bicyclists, we carve our path, claiming our space, and demonstrating that diversity strengthens the very fabric of our city's cycling community."
Rogers stands as a testament to the power of determination, vision, and a commitment to uplifting her community. As a Black woman trailblazer, she has shown that health and wellness know no boundaries, and in fact, when incorporating bicycling, it provides an opportunity for Rochester residents to not only discover or further explore archeological, architectural, and natural landmarks, but to increase our efforts of attracting tourists to the city for the same reasons.
For example, in 2018 a joint initiative of New York State and the City of Rochester introduced ROC The Riverway, a vision plan to revitalize the Genesee River corridor and leverage the value of the riverfront. An initial State investment of $50 million allowed the execution of stabilizing structure and developing concepts for designs. Phase I of the project also notes the establishment of a management entity to program and maintain the existing and newly-created public spaces along the Genesee River. Among other responsibilities, the management entities lead community visioning and engagement, develop and implement programs and events, and recruit businesses.
ROC The Riverway can also positively impact the health and wellness goals of her clients who are primarily people with limited income and have historically faced economic and social barriers at achieving quality health care.
“Community members genuinely rely on EE Pathways to creatively address the challenges they face on their journey towards greater health,” said Rogers. “We recognize creativity is best when collaboration is in the center. We demonstrate this through our bicycling initiatives, exercising activities, and community programming and events. We are paying attention to how revitalizing the Genesee River corridor will not only help fuel our local economy, but will inspire greater health outcomes through bicycling.”
Rogers says she envisions an opportunity to not only support the implementation of bicycling activities and programs with ROC The Riverway, but an even bigger goal is to one day be considered as an essential business on the riverfront to further promote the equitable health and wellness landscape as local infrastructure continues to improve.
To find more information about the work Karen Rogers is spearheading and to access health and wellness resources visit www.eepathways.us.