Earn-A-Bike Program Gives West Oakland Youth New Confidence
By Cathy Niland | 3.16.2021
For more than a decade, West Oakland students ages 10-18 have been participating in our Earn-A-Bike Program, learning free bike mechanics while fixing up two frames. Upon finishing the program, participants take one bike home and donate the second to be sold in support of Bike Shop access and empowerment programs.
Last year, so many of our programs were put on pause due to the pandemic, including Earn-A-Bike. Providing bike maintenance and education at no cost is a vital piece of our mission and reestablishing our Bike programs was a top priority for our reopening.
“The Bike Shop is our biggest and most consistent community engagement arm,” explained Director of Programs, Alyssa Stone. “It is the singular department that throws open that back gate and welcomes people in for service at no cost, completely as a benefit to our community.”
Bike Shop Department Head Jared May (left) works with Earn-A-Bike student Adamaris Umanzor during the last class in the recent four-week session.
With grant funding for our Bike Shop, we were able to relaunch Earn-A-Bike this February with a redesigned format. In years past, students were invited to drop by the studio on a rolling basis, working on bikes for weeks at a time. Now, in order to limit prolonged exposure to others, we’ve reduced each Earn-A-Bike session to eight days over a four-week period with five participants per session and the goal of serving 35 youth this year.
The impact of Earn-A-Bike on Oakland youth
In our first session of 2021 students adjusted to the new structure with ease and our recently expanded Bike Shop has increased efficiency, affording students and instructors more time for maintenance. While most students admitted to being anxious about starting the program, each left with a new sense of accomplishment.
13-year-old Julian, who has taken more than a dozen Crucible youth classes with scholarship support, participated in the program for the first time. “Earn-A-Bike is lots of fun, but it’s lots of work,” he shared. “I feel like I’ve done a good job!”
Adamaris, a fellow first-timer had a similar experience. “I thought it was simple at first, and then it turned out it’s more complicated—but it was fun to learn!” After finishing her bike, Adamaris was proud to show off her finished product. “Riding the bike after I finished, I had a light feeling in my chest, zooming back and forth, showing it off to everybody! Repairing this bike made me feel good.”
14-year-old Sergio participated for the second time and has been fully bitten by the bike maintenance bug. Following his first Earn-A-Bike session in 2019, he fixed up at least eight bikes at home, including a commission. “All the bikes that I’ve fixed up are mine,” he explained, “but someone did ask me to make them a bike and I used some of the stuff that I learned from The Crucible.” He was motivated to return so he could continue building more skills like fixing flat tires and removing the neck of the bike frame. Sergio hopes to continue his bike education in a future Earn-A-Bike session.
Earn-A-Bike is more than a class
Participating in the Earn-A-Bike program allows West Oakland and East Bay youth the chance to be creative while also building skills they can use for hobbies or in a future professional capacity. In a November 2020 Bicycling.com article, authors Molly Hurford and Jordan Smith cite a number of research-backed mental and physical health benefits of bike riding. It’s also a great way to keep transportation costs low and maintain a minimal carbon footprint.
In completing the Earn-A-Bike program, not only do students bring home a bike of their own, they also learn the skills needed to help friends, family, and neighbors maintain safe, reliable access to transportation, building a healthier community. If your student is interested in our Earn-A-Bike program, please fill out our scholarship application or if you have any questions, you can email our team at [email protected].
Meet our five February-March 2021 Earn-A-Bike students:
Age 16, first-time participant
Age 13, first-time participant
Age 14, first-time participant
Age 11, first-time participant
Age 13, second-time participant
Have A Bike You Aren’t Using?
Donate it and support our Bike Shop programs. Drop a line to [email protected] (with photos please!) and our Bike Shop Staff will be in contact.
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