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Youth Center – 7th year of first high school bike tech class in Monterey County

Short link to this post: https://bit.ly/TeachTeensWell

Below, learn about

  1. The background of the bicycle education program at the Youth Center, which began its 7th year in April 2018. The longevity of the bike tech class—providing bicycle repair and maintenance instruction—has only been possible because of faithful volunteers Frank Henderson and Luciano Rodriguez.
  2. “I never saw myself doing it”
  3. Why volunteer with these teens
  4. Volunteer needs—some not requiring bike skills
  5. Qualifications for volunteers
  6. Who’s already volunteering
  7. Grad gifts and supplies—more ways to support the class
  8. Follow-up for grads
  9. Bike Night gatherings for any Youth Center boys (an expansion of the bike ed program)
  10. About juvenile justice
  11. Learn more: links to history of Bicycle Repair and Safety  class, acknowledgements of various class supporters, and other details.
 This bicycling advocacy effort is part of
an educational and treatment program for boys at
the Monterey County Probation Department Youth Center.
The boys come from all over Monterey County.

1. Background of the class

  • For a couple years, Richard Gray, the now retired director of the Monterey County Probation Department Youth Center, had noted the benefits of bike classes at such facilities in other counties. He very much wanted to offer a bike class at the Youth Center, but couldn’t find volunteers.
  • On October 26, 2011, Bicycling Monterey founder Mari Lynch learned that from the director when attending a community meeting. Mari immediately set the wheels in motion, volunteering to establish this instructional program. Other volunteers— repair/maintenance instructors—and additional supporters came aboard (learn about them below). With Mari serving as coordinator, and with the cooperation and support of the Youth Center, the necessary preparations were made.
  • On April 15, 2012, instruction began, with regular series of classes provided through April 27, 2014, plus extra sessions for grads through July 6, 2014.
  • Through July 2014, Mari / Bicycling Monterey served as official provider of the Youth Center bike tech class (bicycle repair and maintenance, plus safety). Establishing and coordinating the class had taken many, many (all volunteer) hours. Although Mari would continue to provide various support—and would launch a new effort there in 2015—keeping the original bike tech class rolling would require a new class coordinator and official provider starting with the fall 2014 school term. Would the class be able to continue? Yes, thanks to the dedication of volunteer Luciano Rodriguez.
  • In August 2014, Luciano Rodriguez, a veteran instructor of the bike tech class since July 2012, accepted the additional responsibilities of class coordinator and official provider. Veteran instructor Frank Henderson, volunteering since April 2012, continues as well. Contact Luciano to see how you can help—as Assistant to the Bicycle Class Coordinator, as a Repair/Maintenance Instructor, or in other ways. Details below.
  • In October 2015, Mari launched Bike Nights at the Youth Center, which continue 2015-2018. Bike Nights serve the general population of boys at the Youth Center, providing an opportunity for boys not eligible for (or for whom space isn’t available in) the bike tech class. See section 9 below for info, including details if you’d like to contribute bike swag for Bike Nights.

Below, Luciano Rodriguez (Photo courtesy of Richard Lake)

Luciano Rodriguez May 2015 - closeup

2. “I never saw myself doing it”

Watch a 2-min film clip from Pedal Born Pictures featuring boys not unlike many of those who are students of this class. You’ll hear, “Oh mountain biking, only a certain amount of people get to do that. I never saw myself doing it.”

Youth Center bike education can be part of supporting teens in seeing themselves anew. Their interest may be beach cruising or mountain biking, BMX or road bikes, social rides or bike commuting or racing. Whatever their interest, over the course of a series of classes, they become more aware of the variety of biking opportunities–for transportation, health, recreation, sport, career possibilities, and more. They end up knowing of many biking opportunities that most of the general public is not aware of!

Students in bike tech class also earn a bike by graduation and acquire skills to maintain and repair it themselves. Their skills will allow them to help others too.

Cerney mural at Monterey County Youth Center“I bike down a new street too!”

Above: Popular muralist John Cerney added his talent to the Youth Center exit in Autumn 2013 .

3. Why volunteer with these boys?

Boys at the Youth Center are mostly ages 14 to 17, some 18. As reported by Julie Reynolds in a Monterey County Herald story 10/26/11, 80-90% are reported to have learning disabilities. Many have been neglected or abused. Most have been gang involved.

And they are a joy to work with!

The following quotes referred to young men involved in violence on the streets of the Monterey County seat. And it applies to many boys who came to the Youth Center, from all over the county, as well.

“They are making poor choices because they’re poorly supported, and they have come up through a series of social failures that have led them to a life that is close to gangs. That puts them at risk.” —Kelly McMillin, Chief of Police, City of Salinas, 8/1/13 [at 3:07]

Bike tech class teaches repair and maintenance skills, and some bicycle law and safety instruction too. The class also helps the boys become aware of biking resources and opportunities, as it sows seeds to help them become confident of their own place in the bike community!

“The thing about young men is they want to belong. Young men uniquely want to belong to a group, to identify with a group….If [positive] options are not available, they will find another group that will…give them love, acceptance, understanding, support, and value….  [gangs, whose members say,]  ‘Nobody else in society wanted you, nobody else in society supports you. But here among us, among other gang members, you will be loved and supported and gain our respect.’”–Kelly McMillin, 8/1/13 [at 3:20]

The bike community has a role to play, as part of a wider community effort, in providing Monterey County boys with far better options.

In addition, as volunteer Frank Henderson puts it, “It is amazing how one bicycle can change a student’s perception, teach them problem solving, and increase their self-confidence. As a teacher for the bike class, I attempt to teach each student how to use the bike class as a tool to be successful in education and life.”

Come teach a class and see for yourself the positive interests and abilities of these boys. Or, volunteer to help the Bicycle Class Coordinator.

If you’d like to learn more about America’s youth in detention facilities, scroll down to “About juvenile justice.”

4. Volunteer needs—with and without bike skills

To volunteer, please contact the bicycle class coordinator, volunteer Luciano Rodriguez: singlespeed32 AT yahoo DOT com

If you have an urgent question and Luciano is unavailable, phone Mari.

Assistant(s) to the Bicycle Class Coordinator: Bike skills not required

There are many pieces to running this class successfully. Among these are volunteer recruitment, scheduling, communications with volunteers and with Youth Center staff, keeping track of parts and supplies and obtaining items as needed, and much more. An Assistant to the Bicycle Class Coordinator may help with any or all of these tasks, depending on their interest, abilities, and available time. For details, download PDF: Asst to Youth Center Bike Class Coordinator

Bicycle Repair/Maintenance Instructors

More  instructors are also needed, to avoid over-scheduling the current instructors, and toward making it possible to offer the class to a larger number of students in the future.

 How often are instructors needed?
  • Instructors are asked to be present at the first class, and if possible, at the last class too.
  • In addition, each instructor will typically be teaching once or twice a month, or if a guest instructor, once or twice a series.

Where? Youth Center, 970 Circle Drive, Salinas.

When? Class dates have most recently been scheduled for Saturdays, for two hours. Check with Luciano for specific dates and times.

5. Qualifications for volunteers

  1. Pass a background check. (This is a requirement for all volunteers.)  Here are the forms it is necessary to complete: YC Provider Application and Authorization Released Information. For special instructions on how to submit them, contact: Novelyn Ayson-Blea, Secretarial Asst, Monterey County Probation Dept ~ Youth Center, 970 Circle Drive, Salinas, CA 93905;  Phone (831) 759-6708 / Fax (831) 784.0254; Ayson-BleaNM@co.monterey.ca.us.
  2. Respect all facility rules, e.g., cell phones are forbidden in the Youth Center.
  3. Strictly adhere to rules about students’ privacy (including but not limited to not taking photographs of the youth, not sharing their names or their cities of past or future residence, and not sharing anecdotes—even without names—about any individual).
  4. Have a genuine heart for youth.
  5. Use positive, respectful communication skills.
  6. Be sensitive to the backgrounds of these youth (e.g., many have experienced neglect, abuse, gang involvement, or been diagnosed as having learning disabilties).
  7. Be an excellent role model.
  8. Be committed to fulfilling typical volunteer responsibilities and keeping it fun!  This includes standard things, e.g., communications with YC bike education team members, advising promptly of schedule changes, etc.
  9. Convey respect for bike laws, such as helmets for under 18, seats for bike passengers, brakes on public streets, even if you don’t personally agree with all laws.  Here’s a summary: Be Cool, Be Safe – bike law summary Acknowledging and respectfully discussing varying viewpoints is welcome and helpful to the learning process, of course. Nonetheless, it’s important to help the students know the laws, and vital there is an atmosphere in class of overall encouragement to follow the laws. Not certain you know enough about bike laws yourself? Repair teachers needn’t be experts on bike laws, as others of us can teach bike laws and safety. If you’d like to learn more, refer to Riding Skills, Safety, and CA Bike Laws.
  10. Be supportive of safe riding practices, while also being sensitive to youth interests. For example, students cannot do bike tricks at class, and it could get them in trouble on public streets. However, while advising students of that, instructors may also share where and when bike tricks are appropriate–and what fun that can be.
  11. And, of course, for volunteers who’ll be teaching repair/maintenance, have a sufficient level of bike repair skills!You don’t need to be licensed or a master mechanic.
For more information about the Youth Center bike tech class, see links at the end of this post.

6. Who’s already volunteering?

  • Two veteran volunteer Bicycle Repair and Maintenance Instructors, Frank Henderson and Luciano Rodriguez, continue in 2018. They have been with the class since April and July 2012 respectively.
  • Volunteer Mari Lynch also continues in 2018, now in the role of Bike Nights coordinator. She has been with the Youth Center bike ed program since launching it in April 2012.

Shout-out to the veteran

Bicycle Repair and Maintenance instructors

Honored by the California Assembly and others, Youth Center bike tech class volunteers…

IMG_0015

IMG_0017

 

Mari Lynch April 2014 CA Assembly

Learn more about Frank Henderson and Luciano Rodriguez, and other YC bike education supporters, here. Frank has volunteered with the class since April 2012, and Luciano has volunteered since July 2012.

Below, Frank Henderson

Frank Henderson at Youth Center

They must have a lot of free time on their hands.

Quite the contrary! When they took on this volunteer gig, Frank, Luciano, and Mari  were each plenty busy. For their “real jobs,” Frank is Tutorial Services and Supplemental Instruction Coordinator, Tutor Training Instructor, and Exam Proctor at Hartnell College; Luciano is employed at Monterey County Juvenile Hall and is also a student at Hartnell College; and Mari is owner of Fine Wordworking, a writing and editing services business. And each one does other volunteering too, beyond Youth Center bike education.

So with busy schedules, why did they find it a high priority to also serve the needs of this class?

And why might you want to join them?

Reconsider the statements by Kelly McMillin above. Similarly, here’s what Monterey County Weekly editor Mary Duan suggested in a “Local Spin” about violence in our county seat: “Small actions might be the cure….” Among Mary’s ideas was “Exercise your hands” by helping teach bike repair skills at the Monterey County Youth Center.

© 2013 Monterey County Weekly

Other reasons to help? If you are reading this post, chances are you realize  there are many and varied benefits to biking! Please support the bicycle interests of these Monterey County youth, so they, too, will likely reap the  benefits that biking can bring.

7. Grad gifts and supplies

Supplies and graduation gifts are accepted for students in the Monterey County Youth Center bike education program, in order…

  • to support instruction with quality equipment and supplies, so students can develop more effective bike maintenance and repair skills;
  • to celebrate the students’ graduation from bike tech class, in good standing;
  • to support the students’ maintaining their own bikes following graduation; and
  • to help the students identify themselves as members of the bike community!
Who has supported this class by contributing items already? Click here, then look for “Youth Center.”

If you would like to contribute items too–such as new helmets, locks, bike lights, pumps, all-in-one or other tools–please contact either Luciano or Mari.

If you have used bikes to donate that are worthy of repair, please contact Luciano or Mari.

Please note that red or blue bicycles or other red/blue items cannot be accepted. Thank you.

  • Luciano Rodriguez, volunteer serving as bike class coordinator, can be reached by email: singlespeed32 AT yahoo DOT com
  • Mari, volunteer serving as bike nights coordinator, is best reached by phone.

8. Follow-up for graduates

When teens graduate bike class (or have participated in Bike Nights), is that where the support ends? Not if they get in touch with Bicycling Monterey, as they’re invited to do.

If Bicycling Monterey knows of a bike-related interest or need they have, we’ll do all we can to support that interest or help meet that need.

9. Bike Nights: Bicycle education for any Youth Center residents

October 30, 2015 was the first Bike Night at the Youth Center, a new bike ed opportunity there that was also launched by Mari Lynch. Bike Nights are occasional gatherings and continue in 2016 and 2017. All boys residing at the Youth Center are welcome at Bike Nights. This provides them an introductory bike ed opportunity, even if they aren’t eligible for (or there isn’t space for them in) the Bicycle Repair and Safety class.

How can you help with Bike Night? Having bike swag can add to the fun of learning about bike laws and safety, the wide variety of bicycling activities and opportunities, and other bike ed topics. They also provide the boys a tangible reminder that people outside care about them and want to encourage them as they prepare for the next chapter of their lives.

What sort of Bike Night swag is appropriate?

No red or blue items, please. Besides bike-related items that they can use after release from the Youth Center (e.g., bike locks, helmets, pumps, reusable water bottles), the boys often appreciate the following items that they can use immediately: socks; yarn for knitting; comic books; toiletries (must be in clear container); pens and pencils; and jigsaw puzzles. Although any such items are welcome, bet some of you bike-lovers can even find bicycle-themed socks, pens, puzzles, comic books, and such.

To contribute swag or help in other ways, please phone Mari.

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 4.42.01 PM

10. About juvenile justice

Did you know…

“Eighty to 90 percent of all American teenagers in confidential interviews will acknowledge that they have committed an offense or offenses that under the law they could be locked up for. [With] most of those kids, nothing happens.”–Nell Bernstein, author of Burning Down the House

Although not specific to the Youth Center, which is a detention center focused on education and treatment, you may be interested in learning more about America’s juvenile prison system. A recommended book is Nell Bernstein’s Burning Down the House. This book is available at Monterey Public Library. If it isn’t in the library you visit, suggest your library purchase it.

What Bernstein reported about 80-90% of American teens is relevant for adolescents and those who care about them, everywhere. It’s especially important to keep in mind in neighborhoods and communities where teens are more vulnerable. Consider what this South Bronx, NY gent had to say about the need for mentors for youth; click here.

The majority of youth at the Monterey County Youth Center are Latino, as are the majority of residents of Monterey County.

Click image to enlarge.

Latino-Hispanic demographics Monterey County - 2005-2009 infoChart © Monterey County Weekly. Used by permission. Special thanks to Kera Abraham, Kevin Smith, and the Monterey County Weekly for the chart above, previously published in the June 9, 2011 Monterey County Weekly.

11. Learn more about the

history of Youth Center bike education

(Posts are listed in chronological order, from the oldest to most recent)

  1. Getting on the right path–a bike path! Bicycle Repair and Safety class at Monterey County’s youth treatment center  [includes bios for first four instructors and other first-year supporters; gives background about the Youth Center, and earliest history of the class]
  2. Monterey County Youth Center Bike Tech Class: Be part of the solution in the second year! [includes second-year start-up boosters; and info relevant for students who may be interested in mountain biking and bike teams]
  3. Thank You, Bike Class Teachers: Monterey County Probation Department Youth Center Honors Providers [includes list of 33 providers supporting the Youth Center’s education and treatment goals]
  4. Sea Otter Classic Expo 2013 Supporters of Monterey County Youth Center Bike Class [includes more second-year boosters, who provided grad gifts, parts, and supplies]
  5. Youth Center – Teach Teens Well [includes qualifications for instructors, and summary to date] – Refer to this post for the most current primary info.
  6. Bicycle Class Coordinator Needed for Monterey County Youth [includes a summary about the class, along with job description for the coordinator position]
  7. Sea Otter Classic Expo 2014 Supporters of Monterey County Youth Center Bike Class [includes third-year boosters, who provided grad gifts, parts, and supplies]
  8. Monterey County Youth Center Annual Appreciation Day [includes list of 30 providers supporting the Youth Center’s education and treatment goals]

Thanks to MacGregor Eddy for providing Californian readers an update about this class via her 5/24/15 “We Could Car Less” column, “The Zen of bicycle repair….

* * * * *

This post was previously published July 23, 2013, with extensive subsequent updates.

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