A little-known club has been happening in John Barsby Community School for the last two and a half years, initiated and funded by our agency. Called “Operation Generation” (seniors mentoring high-school students), this program once featured this cycle repair club as well as a video club, baking club and free tutoring by volunteers.
Tyler Walker has been with the Bicycle Repair Club since its inception and has continued on, despite now being the head honcho at the Hub City Cycles Cooperative. This great non-profit co-op covers Tyler’s time to be with Barsby’s youth!
I interviewed Tyler right after the school year and club closed down for the summer. I asked him what inspires him to continue on with it, especially now that he’s got more responsibility at his repair shop. He immediately answered, “It’s the kids.” He feels challenged at times, but loves watching them find themselves and do better. He is in a place where he can help them gain valuable skills and develop relationally –to do better in social settings. There they learn from real life experiences.
How does he foster that kind of environment? “By helping them to feel safe” in that converted classroom and “be rewarded when they take personal ownership.” At the start Tyler and other volunteers have to instruct them and give them a lot of guidance and encouragement. But when they gain basic mechanical skills, grow confidence in themselves, and become sufficiently motivated their self-esteem really grows, and they gain independence. Tyler loves watching them emerge and become free, capable, youth.
Early in the interview Tyler warmly spoke about one such youth who had recently moved to Nanaimo. Cody didn’t have any friends in the school or community. He joined the club and quickly became involved. The Wednesday lunch-hour club was so important to him that Cody was its most reliable member, eventually becoming a club leader.
Cody’s dedication paid off in several ways, including better self-esteem. He also earned himself a cool Rocky Mountain bike that he had helped to refurbish (pictured here)
Another student was initially stand-offish and resistive. Jody (not his real name) was a “high needs” member, and tended to slack off whenever possible –sitting around eating snacks. After being encouraged for a while Tyler finally confronted him, making it clear that he was welcome to stay only if he invested himself in the club and its activities. Jody accepted the challenge and really became engaged, becoming the fastest mechanic of the club. Soon Jody and Tyler came to enjoy a great connection.
Tyler commented that when he stood up for his own values, rather than letting Jody waste everyone’s time, real change happened!
Most would think that working with youth, some of whom are high needs students, would be difficult. Tyler responded by saying that his only frustration is that there aren’t enough mentors in the club to help the youth go further. He’d like to see the youth managing the club to a much greater degree, but they need that initial support first.
Mostly Tyler feels a lot of “gratitude” to be part of their lives. He said he personally feels more successful. Evidently the benefits flow both ways!
Perhaps this can be summarised by what Tyler said, with a satisfied smile on his face: “I love being a dad for a bunch of kids, all at once!”
Teachers and administrators at the school have reported significant improvements in the youth that participate in the Bike Club. It is likely that the program has also helped to keep some students in school who otherwise would not have completed their basic education. Evidently having mentors who take the time to be with them is having a very positive impact in their lives and the community.
The Bicycle Repair Club will start up again in September. If there are sufficient volunteers Operation Generation may again be able to offer additional activities, making an even bigger difference to these youth.
Would you be one?