Young Cyclists to Rep SB at National Summit
Today’s a big day for nine Santa Barbara Middle School (SBMS) students and their two advisors. The group of bicycle and community outreach enthusiasts is en route to Seattle, Washington, where they’ll represent Santa Barbara at the annual National Youth Bike Summit.
This is the second year students from Santa Barbara have attended the summit—which per its website, brings together teens, policymakers, researchers, and educators from across the nation “to network, learn, and explore how the bicycle is a catalyst for positive social change”—thanks to SBBIKE education director Christine Bourgeois’s enthusiasm for the event. (The junior high group had to cancel last year’s trip to New York because of snow, but two high school students attended with SBBIKE board member Mike Vergeer.)
Sue Carmody, SBBIKE board member and director of community outreach at SBMS, is brimming with pride and excitement for this year’s trip (to her hometown). She’s amped “to be around the energy of young people excited about bikes and cycling—and also about service,” she adds. “That’s where my heart is.”
Service seems to be a focus at SBMS. The school’s Bike Monkeys, young in-house mechanics charged with “aiding their fellow travelers” and leadership, are currently raising money to outfit a mobile bike shop that will enable them to repair and service bicycles at events like Earth Day and other expos and fairs. (The Monkeys have offered their wrenching skills at past Earth Day events in SBBIKE’s Bike World). The mobile unit will broaden the Bike Monkeys’ capacity for empowering people to fix their own bikes and to participate in family rides, explains Carmody.
In Seattle, the teens will seek new ideas to integrate at the school and in the community. And this group is uniquely equipped to bring those ideas back. To be eligible for the trip, students had to have Teen Press experience in addition to being Bike Monkeys. Teen Press is a unique elective that teaches kids the power of story. The group produces online video interviews (you might think of it as the modern version of a school newspaper) that “capture powerful, interesting stories of all kinds of people,” Carmody says. She explains that, after deciding whose story they want to tell and conducting deep research to find nuanced information so they don’t ask the normal questions, students cold-call for interviews and then come up with creative ways to present the stories.
The young SB ambassadors will use that creativity in Seattle, where they’ll be called upon to present to the nationwide audience. They’ll feature the bike as a leadership tool. On a large spinning wheel, they’ve written the words community, resilience, leadership, grit, connection, growth, and Bike Monkey. An audience member will spin the wheel, and a student will tell a story about how bicycles have helped him or her develop that particular skill, aided by a video presentation. They’ll hand out water bottles from SBMS and SBBIKE, the school’s community partner.
Carmody grows reflective about what she hopes the students will gain from the experience. “I want to emphasize the ability to learn from others,” she begins. She hopes to instill in them graciousness. “There’s a lot to learn,” she says. “We’ve been sharing a lot. Let’s see what we can also take in.”
Shared they have. A film crew out of Colorado, who discovered Teen Press when a crew member was interviewed for the school’s site, is making a documentary on the program.
Carmody certainly models the graciousness she hopes to instill. “It’s not about look how great we are but about look how great this program is for your kids and the community. And anybody can do it,” she says of the documentary’s focus.
As for what the young ambassadors will bring back to Santa Barbara’s cycling community, “I don’t think we know yet.” But she can’t wait to find out.
Also accompanying the group is Jesse Kasenhagen, seventh grade science teacher and Bike Monkey advisor. The group heads out today and will return on Monday. Stay tuned. SBBIKE will follow up!