John Barsby Community School students are profiting from a bicycle repair program where volunteers show students how to bring old bikes back to life in a classroom converted into a workshop.
Students of all skill levels and aptitudes are welcome and the most dedicated get to re-build a bike for themselves.
The idea for the program, called Operation Generation, came from Island Integrated Counselling in 2012. Tyler Walker, manager and president of Hub City Cycles Community Co-op, has run the program, paid for by Island Integrated Counselling and Hub City Cycles, since January 2013 when it started with about eight adult volunteers.
“That’s where the name Operation Generation came from, because it was youth and seniors working together to learn about bikes and bike mechanics,” Walker said.
Most of the bikes come from Surrey B.C., purchased at police auctions by a Rotary club and shipped free of charge by Diamond Delivery of Nanaimo. The students select which ones are repairable and strip the rest for usable parts.
“The primary purpose of this program is to get kids on bikes and to teach them about bike mechanics and about biking and how to work as a team by coming and volunteering here,” Walker said.
Students committed to building the program get to build and keep their own bike and are given a helmet, lock and lights.
About 12 students have earned bikes. The program also has a mountain bike club that gets together Wednesday afternoons.
Cody Park, a Grade 8 student, joined in March.
“[Bikes] are pretty much completely interesting, but the most interesting thing, I would say, is when they first invented them. It was really cool because it’s a non-motorized vehicle that you can drive,” Park said.
Walker wants more students and committed mentors to join the program and ultimately put the students in charge of running it.
“I really see a lot of value in the youth working here and in the youth being involved in the program in a much deeper way,” Walker said.
When Operation Generation started it included a baking class, video club and tutoring. Money shortages ended those, but organizers would like to restart them to engage more students and possibly spread Operation Generation to other schools.
“We’ve been able to keep some kids engaged in school who otherwise probably would have dropped out … and it makes lives more meaningful for seniors too,” said Ian Gartshore, president of Island Integrated Counselling.
For more about Operation Generation, please call Hub City Cycles at 250-591-2159 or visit www.hubcitycycles.ca.