Before 2015 came to a close, Neighborhood Bike Works youth graduates tightened the final bolts on a total of 275 brand new Huffy children's bikes. The bikes, shiny streamers and all, were distributed to local shelters and community projects as part of our annual CH2M Hill Winter Bike Build. This was our ninth year running this project, and this year we made a few healthy tweaks to make the program a better learning opportunity and more fun.
Each year, CH2M Hill has raised the funds to allow us to hire NBW teen graduates to build the bikes. Because the Winter Bike Build is a paid opportunity for NBW youth, we built in a few lessons about personal finance. NBW staff and the young mechanics discussed using check cashing centers vs. banks or credit unions, basic budgeting techniques, and how to anticipate net pay. Financial literacy hasn't always been part of our curriculum, but as we've created more opportunities for youth to earn money at NBW, we've also added these kinds of practical life skills sessions.
Another exciting tweak to this year's program was that we asked the teens to choose someone they know personally who would appreciate a bike, and then challenged them to refurbish one just for them. This new pay it forward opportunity brought forth some truly overjoyed family members, and proud mechanics too. We loved to watch 17-year old Desiree give her younger brother his very first bike at the final Bike Build ceremony.
Last but not least, our youth mechanics had the opportunity to meet one of the city's most high-profile figures, Philly’s new mayor, Jim Kenney! Mayor Kenney met us at the West Philadelphia YMCA to share his plans for the city's cycling infrastructure. Six NBW youth attended this event to speak with Kenney about their huge role in the Winter Bike Build Program. We’re proud of our youth for taking the initiative to make sure their voices are heard!