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Santa Barbara Middle School Links Bike Pedals, Community Partnerships

School will donate $250 won in Bike to Earth Day contest to local nonprofit/charity

As the winner of Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition’s (Bici Centro) Bike to Earth Day contest, Santa Barbara Middle School will donate the cash prize of $250 to a nonprofit or charity of its choice.

Nearly 50 riders pedaled their way to the April 21 event to be the largest group of organized riders attending the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.

The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition’s Christine Bourgeois said the contest idea came from the notion that there are many cycling groups in Santa Barbara, and “it’s more fun to ride with family and friends.”

“This contest was a way to show the social aspect of biking and encourage groups to get together,” she said.

It is a fitting win for Santa Barbara Middle School, as it is well known for its accredited outdoor education program, through which students have traveled more than 2.5 million miles on their bikes since the school’s beginning in 1976.

Each year, SBMS spends about 20 nights out in the wilderness teaching students to be environmentally aware. On most of their outdoor expeditions, you will find students and teachers on their bikes. The bicycle is a tool and a metaphor that the school uses to teach resilience and self-confidence.

A key aspect behind the safety and success of the school’s biking journeys is the help and expertise they get from their student Bike Monkey team — a group of student leaders trained in bike mechanics.

“On our schoolwide bike trips, the Bike Monkeys are the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to go to bed each night as we are prepping and fixing bikes so that all the kids can have a fun, safe and successful ride the next day,” said Jake Garner, a ninth-grade student and one of the Bike Monkey captains this year. “We are also the students who will ride alongside new riders, offer up our own bike if we need to, and work hard to motivate others to have a great ride.”

Jesse Kasenhagen, SBMS science teacher and Bike Monkey faculty adviser, said he enjoys providing a service that supports the greater Santa Barbara community.

“Our Bike Monkeys enjoy working side by side with Bici Centro and Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition to be of service to the public,” he said. “The Bike Monkeys have a great opportunity to be of service to the bicycle community. They teach others how to conduct regular maintenance checks and do some repairs on their own bike, so that riders feel safe and are ready to ride.”

This is the third year that the SBMS Bike Monkeys have assisted the Bike World program at the Community Environmental Council’s Earth Day Festival.

— Sue Carmody is the director of community outreach for Santa Barbara Middle School.

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