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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Tulsa's after-school bicycle program is a big hit and a perfect model for other cities to emulate

Tulsa's after-school bicycle program is a big hit and a perfect model for other cities to emulate
By:  Michael Lander

Tulsa's after-school bicycle program, known as -
Bike Club, is wildly popular with students,
parents, and others.  This is a photo of two
Robertson Elementary Bike Club members and
a half-dozen volunteers who have helped to
make the program as successful as it is. 
(Photo:  Courtesy of Melissa Lukenbaugh)

The Tulsa Public School system in Oklahoma, along with the help of dozens of volunteers from some bike teams and bike clubs, and a handful of local area businesses, is blazing a trail with an after-school bicycle program that has been viewed, by many, as being incredibly successful in so many different and wonderful ways.

This after-school bicycle program is called “Bike Club” and it is making a positive difference in the lives of children and it is wildly popular with parents, teachers, school administrators, and students alike.

The club is in its second year, having begun in 2014 to 2015, and it teaches important lessons about bicycling to students in grades four through six in half a dozen elementary schools in Tulsa.

Bike Club not only teaches these students about important lessons that are required for riding a bike, but it also provides them with other valuable life lessons that they might not necessarily get in a classroom setting.

Most importantly, the after-school bicycle program does all this without leaving out one of the best things of all to these young men and women – it doesn't leave out the element of fun and adventure that comes along with riding a bicycle.

“Bike Club helps students to learn about bicycles, bicycle safety, simple bicycle maintenance and bicycling riding,”
Gary Percefull said.

Percefull represents District 1 on the Tulsa School Board of Education.

“The first semester is mostly spent on or near each campus and students become proficient on the bikes and learn street safety.  In the second semester, they are taken off-campus and they go on field trips,” Percefull said.
 
“We have also been able to provide a USA BMX Stem Kit to each Bike Club school so on indoor weather days the students can work on drills, exercises, and on building bikes,” he said.

Bike Club has made a big difference in the
lives of its students while teaching them
about bicycling and a lot more.  This is
one of the Bike Club students at
Robertson Elementary.  (Photo:
Courtesy of Melissa Lukenbaugh)

For Percefull, what the students learn off of their bikes, however, may be just as important as what they learn on them.

“There is a lot of mentoring and role-modeling going on.  Bike Club works on teaching the students life skills like teamwork, respect, and cooperation, too,” he said.

“The bicycles that the students in Bike Club ride throughout the school year are provided by
Humble Sons Bicycle Company through generous charitable donations from individuals and businesses in our community,” Jason Whorton said.

Whorton is the co-founder of Humble Sons Bike Co.

“The bikes stay at school during the school year and are given to the students at the end of the year,” Percefull said.

“The Bike Club is 100 percent volunteer-based and several bike teams like Team Crude, Team Tom’s Bicycles, Team Air Assurance, Team 36P, Team Soundpony, the Tulsa Bicycle Club, and bike shops in Tulsa have provided volunteers, equipment, and support for it,” he said. 

“Humble Sons Bike Company provides bikes, helmets, and other associated equipment and supplies through its funding.  No direct funding has come from the school district, but several individuals and philanthropic organizations have made some very generous contributions to support Bike Club,” Percefull added.

“Humble Sons became involved when the Tulsa Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) member, Mike Wozniak, approached me and he and I have been working together developing Bike Club ever since," Whorton said.


"My bicycle non-profit was especially interested in the Bike Club initiative because it leveraged our donation of a bike and helmet, but it also provided safety training and encouraged successful navigation (and emphasis) on the ‘ABC’s’ – Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework,” he said.

All of this is in line with Humble Sons’ mission to “provide children access to bicycles and promote safe riding practices to encourage active lifestyles,” he added.

According to Percefull, there were 25 students enrolled in the after-school bicycle program last year and this jumped up to 150 students in the second year (2015 to 2016). 

Volunteers for students in Bike Club not
only teach the student how to ride a
bike, but they can also be role
models for them and help
guide and influence them to
achieve success in life. 
(Photo:  Courtesy of
Melissa Lukenbaugh)

“This year, six elementary schools have a bike club.  We are looking at a possible expansion of nine to 12 schools next year.  Future growth will depend heavily on the ability to recruit adequate volunteers who can participate in the program, beginning around 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.,” Percefull said.

For Percefull, the Bike Club, thus far, has greatly exceeded all expectations.

“The overall response to this program from the teachers, parents, and the community as a whole has been fantastic.  There is such great interest and offers to help.  Everyone seems to love Bike Club and wants to be involved or supportive of it,” Percefull said.

“The principal from Emerson Elementary School, Tammy States, told me that Bike Club students have taken more of a leadership role, not only in the Bike Club, but also in their classrooms.  They feel good about themselves because they are part of something that is unique,” he said.

“The principals, counselors, and faculty sponsors report that Bike Club has been huge in supporting and encouraging good behavior, attendance, and coursework,” he added.

Like Percefull, Whorton, too, has heard some very positive things about the after-school program and has even gotten some feedback from parents, himself.

“This past week, I got a note from a parent, which said ‘Thank you guys for allowing my son into Bike Club.  I have noticed he has opened up with people and it has helped his confidence,’” Whorton said.

The most rewarding part for Whorton, himself, is seeing what Bike Club has accomplished and what he gets from the children, themselves.

“Watching this idea go from one bicycle club to a community engagement program that has impacted hundreds of lives in two years has been great and you got to love seeing those smiles each time the kids ride,” Whorton said.

Bike Club teaches students, like this one
from Remington Elementary, about
bicycling and it can benefit the
students with improvements
in behavior and in academics.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Melissa
Lukenbaugh)

Percefull has been especially impressed with how the Bike Club has evolved into something bigger than what he first envisioned.

“This has really turned into a community engagement program that is bringing Tulsans together around bikes.  The Bike Club’s mission statement pretty much sums it up - ‘Building confident cyclists and great Tulsans through community engagement,” Percefull said.

For Whorton, the key to continued success comes through expanding the pool of dedicated and passionate volunteers.

“We are committed to developing systems that give our volunteers easy access to registration, training, and other tools needed to be successful,” Whorton said.

Whorton has several suggestions for other cities that may be looking to establish and maintain a similar after-school program, themselves.

“You should consider putting together an advisory teamIt’s hard to connect all of the dots by yourself.  Also, be sure to take care of your volunteers.  Volunteers are everything,” Whorton said.

“We have progressed by developing relationships with people who share similar interests and goals.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to be told ‘no thank you.’  Just ask enough like-minded people and someone will say ‘yes, I want to support this',” he said.

“Every school, community, and city is different and what works in one place, might not work in another.  Just be creative with how you leverage your community partners and resources around each school,” he added.

With a committed group of individuals, philanthropic organizations, businesses, and dedicated volunteers, other cities like Memphis may be able to have the same level of success that Tulsa has had with their increasingly popular and expanding after-school bicycle program.

For the sake of the children in other school systems around the country, after-school programs like the one in Tulsa, is certainly worth the time and investment in those who are our future.

4 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful program! I wish our local school system in Memphis would think of trying to implement a similar one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree with you on that, Martha. A system-wide after-school bicycle program, like what they are working to have in Tulsa, would definitely be a great thing for the kids in Memphis & in other cities across the U.S.

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  2. This is a great program. Robertson is blessed to have to bike club in our school!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From all that I learned about it when I covered this story, Jeanie, I would have to agree with you, wholeheartedly.

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