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High school classes teach youth bicycle repair in partnership Spokies

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Ruben Cervantes, 16, trues a bicycle wheel at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Ruben Cervantes, 16, trues a bicycle wheel at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Ruben Cervantes works on a bicycle wheel at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Ruben Cervantes works on a bicycle wheel at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

While flipping through an education magazine recently, Oklahoma City Public Schools board member Laura Massenat saw an article about a bike program for high schoolers in Baltimore.

“I immediately knew we had the people to do it here,” she said.

Inspired by the article, Massenat soon gained project approval from district leadership and reached out to community leaders.

She said the timing was perfect.

Earlier this year, Emerson High School launched a bicycle repair class that gave students an opportunity to work four hours each week on bikes while earning credit for a character education course.

“We are using a bicycle and the conversation through working on a bicycle to mentor these kids,” said Steven Charles, executive director of Rocktown Youth Mentoring, the organization overseeing the program.

The school offers the setting, Rocktown offers the mentorship training and the city’s Spokies bikeshare program offers the bikes.

Brendan Heitz, a mentor from the University of Oklahoma, helps true a bicycle wheel at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Brendan Heitz, a mentor from the University of Oklahoma, helps true a bicycle wheel at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Life skills

Josh Vaught, the director of Spokies, leads the class by helping students learn the basics of bike maintenance.

“For the kids that are here, I’ve seen them grow and got to know them,” Vaught said. “High school kids tend to be more interested in cars than bicycles, but a lot of them can’t afford cars. They can a bicycle, especially if we help them maintain it themselves.”

Vaught said the class typically sees three to five students who work on bikes they will keep at the end of the course. The class also performs maintenance on bikes in the Spokies system.

Charles said class size will likely grow, especially considering it was established just before the last round of class registration closed. There also is interest in establishing similar classes in other schools.

“The students enjoy working on them, taking them apart and figuring it out. The mentoring part is the most important part to me,” Charles said. “We want them to be able to ride it to school or work. We want them to be in shape, and we want them to learn a skill.”

Vaught said learning how to repair a bike might allow some students at Emerson, which has a high percentage of low-income students, to affordably maintain their own bike, which they will be given at the end of the class.

“We are hoping within the next week to get their bikes all tuned up and ready to go, and we are also able to use the Spokies bikes [to work on],” Vaught said. “We take kids to a [Spokies] station sometimes and work on bikes there or check the bikes out to take a ride.”

The program is also forming a relationship with Wheeler Criterium, a weekly bike-racing festival.

“We are also encouraging them to come to the Wheeler Crit and introduce them to that type of bike culture,” Vaught said. “A lot of our mentors are from that style of cycling, but mostly, we have mentors that are really more into helping kids than cycling.”

(Photo: Mark Hancock)

(Photo: Mark Hancock)

Print headline: Life, cycle; Emerson High School offers classes to mentor and teach youth about bicycle repair in partnership with the city’s Spokies program.

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