We always say that it’s not just about bikes. This summer, learning how to ride confidently and maintain their own bikes unlocked a sense of confidence and discovery in our students at our youth programs in Kansas City, Missouri.
“One student at the Tony Aguirre Community Center needed a little guidance on the first day, but was riding circles around her classmates every day after that,” remembers BikeWalkKC instructor Mat Orzechowski. “She tore up the pavement, and she was so eager to ride as much as possible that she was always the last kid to leave the course at the end of the day.”
"I am glad I persisted and learned how to bike"
"Having a bike to fit my size helps me get around to parks and school and without having a bike picked out for me, I wouldn't have been able to find one that works"
A similar story played out multiple times at the Front Porch Alliance (FPA) with the PORCH Storytellers and Reel Collectors. One student was too nervous to try riding at first, but she was very interested in learning bike maintenance. “During the maintenance lesson, she was there changing tires, fixing flats,” said instructor Mark Horn. “When it came to putting her hands on something she could control, she blossomed!” Eventually, that newfound confidence encouraged her to learn to ride her bike, too.
“The sheer delight in my students' faces as they accomplished their various biking goals is incredible to see. I am grateful to the whole BWKC crew for working with our students and helping them discover new passions and hobbies,” praised Hanna Hochstetler, Youth Programs Coordinator at Front Porch Alliance. “One of our students eagerly awaited the end of summer so he could take his bike home. This was his first summer biking, and he took to it so naturally.”
"Having a bike is a fun and near infinite way to travel"
"It was fun and it allowed me to get out my comfort zone"
"Having a bike gives me a faster way to go to the store, my grandparents' house and the library"
At the end of the FPA program, the students and staff celebrated their accomplishments with a pedal around the neighborhood. “Our annual ‘big bike ride’ around Kansas City--starting at Front Porch Alliance, through the historic Jansen Place neighborhood, stopping for lunch at Ruby Jean's, and returning to Front porch--is always a highlight of the summer!” said An Sasala, FPA Communications Coordinator. “This year, students also visited the BikeWalk offices and their faces exploded in wonder when they turned the corner and saw the bike shop. I loved seeing their excitement; it was pure kids being kids."
Our summer programs serve all kinds of young people at every bicycling skill level. With a little patience, encouragement, and proven techniques, many of our students who start off wobbly and fearful learn to ride in just a few days. But the most impressive development we see is off the bike: they stand a little taller, take initiative more often, and cheer louder for their friends who are learning alongside them. “Their immediate performance in class isn’t what truly matters,” our instructor Mark always says, “as long as we know we planted the seed.”
Our youth programming in Kansas City, Missouri is supported in part by GEHA Gives Corporate Social Responsibility program, which focuses on health equity efforts that address racial disparities in health care as part of its commitment to lifting up the communities it serves.