Columbia City’s beloved bikeshop and non-profit, Bikeworks, has made the news once again. This time, it’s in ParentMap, with Hillary Benson highlighting the after-school programs Bikeworks runs and the relationships that exist between mentors and participants.
After-School Special: Beyond School and Home, Kinds Need Mentors to Thrive:
A look at why building relationships matters in after-school programs
In a classroom of boys, groups of three gather around their bike stands. Some students experiment with wrenches to figure out which kind will loosen frozen bolts on wheels. Others cooperate to remove rusty chains, an important step to get these not so gently used bikes back into working condition.
Instructor Ricardo Rodriguez, aka “Ricky,” walks around the room, slipping easily between Spanish and English as he offers tips. “Who’s ever heard of ‘lefty loosey, righty tighty’?” Today’s class is “All Boys Earn a Bike”; yesterday’s class was for girls only, and there are also coed options. The boys range from 9 years old to high school age; 70 percent are youths of color.
This after-school program at Bike Works, in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, teaches real-life skills, from rebuilding bicycles to building friendships, from the ground up. “We say the bicycle is a tool of freedom,” explains program director Tina Bechler, “but it leads to conversations about opportunities, how the world is changing, bigger issues.” The kids will get to keep a refurbished bike at the end of the eight-week program. And with actively involved alumni — who, until they reach the age of 18, are invited to weekly class drop-ins — relationships are formed. It is a bond that, for many kids, is stronger than those they have at school and maybe even at home…