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Youth Center – Teach Teens Well: 6th year of Monterey County’s first high school bike tech class

Below, learn about
  1. Background of Youth Center bike class, which begins its 6th year in April 2017
  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 ed for any Youth Center boys
  10. About juvenile justice
  11. Learn more: links to history of bike  class, acknowledgements of various class supporters, and other details
More volunteers are needed
to help maintain and expand the class.
 Bicycle repair and safety class is part of
an educational and treatment program for students at
the Monterey County Probation Department Youth Center.

The classes are for boys

who come from all over Monterey County.

1. Background of the class

  • For a couple years, Richard Gray, the now retired director of Monterey County 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, Mari Lynch, Bicycling Monterey heard that at a community meeting and 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 Youth Center bike class.  Establishing and coordinating the class had taken many, many (all volunteer) hours. To keep it rolling, although Mari would continue to provide various support, starting with the fall 2014 school term, it would be time for a new official provider and class coordinator. Would the class be able to continue? Yes, thanks to the dedication of volunteer Luciano Rodriguez.
  • In August 2014, Luciano Rodriguez, a veteran repair instructor of the class since July 2012, accepted the additional responsibilities of class coordinator and official provider. Contact Luciano to see how you can help–as Assistant to the Bicycle Class Coordinator, as a Repair Instructor, or in other ways. Details below.
  • Note: If you’d like to contribute items for the boys for the bike ed night scheduled for May 12, 2017, or contribute items for a later date, contact Mari.

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 class 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!

They 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!”

Popular muralist John Cerney added his talent to the Youth Center exit in Autumn 2013 (shown above).

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 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, 831-444-3509.

If you have an urgent question and Luciano is unavailable, contact volunteer Mari Lynch, class advisor, 831-375-6278; or Youth Center staff member Patty Esparza, events/activities coordinator, 831-759-7223 –

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 or Patty 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; Respect all facility rules, e.g., cell phones are forbidden in the Youth Center.
  2. Have a genuine heart for youth.
  3. Use positive, respectful communication skills.
  4. Be sensitive to the backgrounds of these youth (e.g., many have experienced abuse, neglect, gang involvement, or been diagnosed as having learning disabilties).
  5. 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).
  6. Be an excellent role model.
  7. Be committed to fulfilling typical volunteer responsibilities and keeping it fun!  This includes standard things, e.g., communications with bike class team members, advising promptly of schedule changes, etc.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 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. They have been with the class since April and July 2012 respectively.
  • Class advisor Mari Lynch, who has been with the class from its beginnings, continues to be available as class advisor and supporter, and as an on-call resources/skills instructor. Beginning fall 2015, on an occasional basis, Mari is providing bike ed presentations (e.g., Bike Night) to the general population of boys at the Youth Center. (Note: If you’d like to contribute items for the boys for the bike ed night scheduled for May 12, 2017, or contribute items for a later date, contact Mari.)IMG_0047

Shout-out to the veteran

Bicycle Repair and Maintenance instructors

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



Learn more about Frank Henderson and Luciano Rodriguez, and other bike class 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 an Instructional Paraprofessional, Transitional Housing Residential Supervisor, and Cielo Cyclery/ groundbreaking bike enthusiast at Rancho Cielo; and Mari is owner of Fine Wordworking, a writing and editing services business. And each one does other volunteering too, beyond Youth Center bike class.

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.

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.

Mari Lynch April 2014 CA Assembly

7. Grad gifts and supplies

Supplies and graduation gifts are accepted for students in the Monterey County Youth Center bike class, 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 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 Patty.

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

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.
    Luciano’s phone: 831/444-3509
  • Patty Esparza, Youth Center staff member serving as activities/events coordinator.
    Patty’s email:  – Patty’s phone: 831/759-7223

8. Follow-up for graduates

When teens graduate bike class, 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 ed for any Youth Center boys

October  30, 2015 was the first Bike Night at the Youth Center, a new bike ed outreach being launched by Bicycling Monterey in fall 2015. This was repeated in 2016 and is planned to be scheduled for 2017 as well. All boys residing at the Youth Center are welcome at Bike Night. This outreach provides them an introductory bike ed opportunity, plus fun—even if they aren’t eligible for (or there isn’t space for them in) Youth Center bike class!

How can you help with Bike Night? Having raffle prizes can add to the fun of learning about bike laws and safety, diverse bicycling activities and opportunities, and other bike ed topics. They also provide the boys a tangible reminder that people in their county care about them and want to encourage them during this challenging season of their lives.

What sort of Bike Night raffle prizes are 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.

If you’d like to support this new outreach by contributing a raffle prize or helping in other ways, please phone Mari 831.375.6278.

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 class

(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 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 11th 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….

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An early version of this post was previously published July 23, 2013.

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