After visiting the local Trips For Kids program in his town, the yayor of Biddeford, Maine, recently expressed a sentiment that many people can agree with and that is that "…the current educational system does not work for all kids; yet here, at a bicycle center, they were thriving!"
He also said that "While riding on bikes, kids learn teamwork, self-esteem, character building, and confidence." This is a typical story that you can find in the TFK newsletter and on their website.
At TFK Metro New York, 16 year-old Oriell exclaimed that "I learned that if you fall you get back up and nothing, not even fear itself, can stop Trips For Kids and its students from having a good time!"
This chapter has kids from "The Point" in the Bronx, the third poorest neighborhood in the U.S., yet "…the kids attack the trails with gusto and energy, cheering each other on and not accepting failure on any hill or route."
At TFK Triangle in Chapel Hill, N.C., teachers took a few students who were having difficulties in school out on mountain bike rides. The chapter has grown, and according to Brogden Principal Renee Price Trapp "The rides work as a reward for positive behavior, good attendance and /or good grades." She has seen marked improvements in students' attention, academics, and attitudes.
At TFK Ottawa, there was an older teen that was known to steal bicycles. After he had experienced a few TFK rides, he started helping to maintain the bikes and the chapter leader easily realized that he had some great bike mechanic skills. He also logged lots of volunteer hours and is a mentor to the younger kids who now look up to him. TFK let the local bike shop know about how awesome he was and they hired him full time.
You can read lots of these kinds of positive stories about many of the 70+ TFK chapters all across the United States, Canada, and Israel. If you go to their website, you can also view a bunch of You Tube videos either taken by professional television news crews or by the kids themselves as they take part in mountain bike rides in and near their communities.
I personally recognize that particular smile that cannot be wiped off your face when you accomplish something really cool. For me, it was quite a few years ago that I first conquered the 20th Street hill going south on my old hybrid bicycle. I had that same smile that you will see on many of the kids' faces as they complete an exhilarating or challenging bike ride for the first time.
I think that a lot of people realize, like the mayor of Biddeford that the present school system does not work for all kids, yet putting some of them on bicycles and giving them a challenge could change their lives. Some of them may even get over whatever is holding them back and actually start to excel even in that same school system. Some of them may discover that they are natural mechanics or may even have the skills and brain power to become mechanical engineers.
Page 2 of 2 - While some kids do not do well in a school system that teaches very general knowledge, those same kids may excel when you give them specific challenges and problems to solve.
If you are interested in assisting our local kids in a TFK chapter, contact Brendan Sheehan at the Santa Fe Trails Bike & Coffee Shop and he will inform you about the local chapter in Leavenworth. If you are not in Leavenworth, you may want to start your own chapter wherever you are. No fees. Free bikes. Just follow the rules.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.