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High school students earn free bikes, learn life lessons through 10-week course


It's an extracurricular class where students learn how a bike works and how to fix it when something goes wrong.

Two Wheel View's 10-week Earn-A-Bike program has operated in Calgary since 2006.

"Lots of people can remember the first bike that they've ever had and the memories and the freedom that gave them," said Laura Istead, the program’s executive director.

"In our program, which we do all over the city, it's a first bike for a lot of young people and that's really freeing and allows them to ride to the places that they want to go and sometimes ride away from the things they need to get away from, too."

Istead says about 90 kids will graduate the program before Christmas.

The program graduates more than 250 kids annually.

Istead says participating schools are seeing higher attendance levels.

"We know that youth are getting more days at school, we know that youth are getting more physical recreation, we know that they have the ability to get to jobs," Istead said.

"We know that they have the ability to explore the city and are gaining lots of things like confidence, employment skills, lots of other kinds of things that you can't even measure."

As the program name implies, the students receive a refurbished bicycle, helmet and basic tools to maintain their new ride.

Vann Dueck is a 15-year-old Grade 10 student at Crescent Heights High School who says the bike he earns will be used to commute to school, and explore the city.

"I love biking and this is my first year in the school, so I thought it'd be a good way to get to know people and it has been," he said.

"I know a lot about working on bikes already but I've still learned more in this program."

Devin Whidden has a bike at home but it's too small for him now.

He didn't know much about fixing bikes when he started the program in September and says during the course he's learned about leadership and how to work in a group environment to solve problems.

He's glad he signed up.

"I feel like it's just like a basic skill that you need," Whidden said.

"I didn't really know anything about bikes or how they worked. I kind of just gave it to my dad and hoped he'd make it better."

In addition to a new bike, the graduates will also receive Lori Beattie's new book, Calgary's Best Bike Rides.

She's a fan of Two Wheel View and the way it empowers young people to explore their surroundings.

"I thought this is a great organization to partner with to give a bunch of books so that these kids can have a starting point," Beattie said.

"Once they earn their bikes, then they have this book to reference and some curated routes and some ice cream stops (to) get them excited because that's the way I approached my books is to get people excited about being self-propelled in the city and I'm all about connecting communities."

Jenna Seagrove is a Crescent Heights High School outdoor pursuit teacher and says she sees a mix of students taking the course – some who ride bikes but have never maintained them and others who have never ridden a bicycle.

"So I've heard from administration that outdoor pursuits is the course that gets the students in the door," she said.

"It's the one they want to come to and then since they're here, they go to their other courses. I think socializing with their peers at school, they really meet a lot of people in the class they become friends with and that all contributes to overall learning."

Learn more about Two Wheel View online, at Top Stories

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