Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 8:12 am | Overcast 59º


Santa Barbara Middle School Students Representing City at National Youth Bike Summit

On Thursday, nine Santa Barbara Middle School students and two advisors were en route to Seattle, Wash., where they’ll represent Santa Barbara at the annual National Youth Bike Summit.

This is the second year Santa Barbara students will attend the summit, which per its website, brings together teens, policymakers, researchers and educators “to network, learn and explore how the bicycle is a catalyst for positive social change.”

Sue Carmody, Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition board member and director of community outreach at SBMS, is brimming with pride. She’s amped “to be around the energy of young people excited about bikes and cycling and also about service,” she adds. “That’s where my heart is.”

Service is a focus at SBMS. The school’s Bike Monkeys, young in-house mechanics charged with “aiding their fellow travelers” and leadership, are currently raising money to outfit a mobile bike shop that will enable them to service bicycles at events like Earth Day. (The Monkeys have offered their wrenching skills at past ED events in SBBIKE’s Bike World). The mobile unit will broaden the Bike Monkeys’ capacity for empowering people to fix their own bikes and to participate in family rides, explains Carmody.

In Seattle, the teens will seek new ideas to integrate at the school and in the community. And this group is uniquely equipped to bring those ideas home. To be eligible for the trip, students had to have Teen Press experience in addition to being Bike Monkeys. Teen Press is a unique elective that teaches teens the power of story. The group produces online video interviews (you might think of it as the modern version of a school newspaper) that “capture powerful, interesting stories of all kinds of people,” Carmody says. She explains that, after deciding whose story they want to tell and conducting deep research to find nuanced information, students cold-call for interviews and come up with creative presentations.

The young SB ambassadors will use that creativity in Seattle, where they’ll be called upon to present to the nationwide audience. They’ll feature the bike as a leadership tool. On a large spinning wheel, they’ve written the words community, resilience, leadership, grit, connection, growth, and Bike Monkey. An audience member will spin the wheel, and a student will tell a story about how bicycles have helped him or her develop that particular skill, aided by a video presentation. They’ll hand out water bottles from SBMS and SBBIKE, the school’s community partner.

Carmody wants to emphasize the ability to learn from others. She hopes to instill in students graciousness.

“There’s a lot to learn,” she says. “We’ve been sharing a lot. Let’s see what we can also take in.”

Shared they have. A film crew out of Colorado, who discovered Teen Press when a crew member was interviewed for the school’s site, is making a documentary on the program. Carmody certainly models the graciousness she hopes to impart.

“It’s not about look how great we are but about look how great this program is for your kids and the community. And anybody can do it,” she says.

Also accompanying the group is Jesse Kasenhagen, seventh-grade science teacher and Bike Monkey adviser. The group heads out Thursday and will return on Monday.

— Holly Starley is the content director for the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition.

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