Youth Programs Return After a Year of COVID19.
April 5th 2021 began our first day of programming since the start of the COVID19 pandemic.
2020 was slated to be an exciting and vibrant year for programs at 2nd Cycle. We were expanding our space, building a classroom, and had a lot of new partnerships / programs to look forward to. Being a space that sees youth as an essential component of our organization and our community, and learning that we had to distance ourselves from what gives life to our organization felt devastating to say the least. We worked hard to create at home educational and enrichment resources for students, but it was not the same and we could feel the distance and difference in the space immediately.
Programming staff readjusted and shifted their time and attention to support the needs of the retail and repair aspects of the shop - people were lining up to get into the shop, and we were serving roughly 50 people per day on average. Riding a bicycle took on an entirely new meaning after the blow of COVID19. Bikes provided hope, a form of safe recreation as well as an opportunity to release all of the pent up emotions we began to hold in our bodies.
Bikes also took on a new meaning for the staff at 2nd Cycle as we began to see our community rapidly expand. The summer of 2020 gave immense space for the expansion of active transportation and riding bikes for joy but something was missing from this moment, one of the most vulnerable communities experiencing the pandemic - youth.
After the summer bike boom began to slow down and we had more space for planning and reprioritizing our time away from supporting the huge demand we had just experienced through the summer.. Program staff began planning for how to safely bring back the most absent members of our community, and the first step was to build a classroom.
In previous years youth programs had operated in the same space as retail and repair services. Programming around self reliance, advocacy, and community for youth became a major facet of our organization.. Waitlists started piling up, and we just needed more space. Expanding our classroom space was the biggest way we could honor our students, and give them something that was solely intended for their growth and empowerment. We spent most of February building benches, meeting with youth employees to plan, and trying to track down tooling / build out materials that had been wiped out by the pandemic’s disruption in distribution. After completing our classroom build out we met with other youth serving organizations in Tacoma to see how they had been running programs while keeping their staff and students safe.
In early March we launched our enrollment for Spring Break cycling camp. In washington state students under 12 years old can not be left home alone for more than 2 hours. This puts families in a vulnerable position where they have to figure out how to financially support themselves and their children during a time where childcare and the opportunity to earn income are scarce. Through partnership with Safe Routes to School we were able to offer this camp to students age 8-12 at no cost. We were nervous to bring people back into the space after a year of distancing and isolation, but we were eager to be reunited with students.
On the first day of camp we were met with mostly new faces, but there were 2 students who had returned to spend the week with us. One of our returning students TreJean, had taken his first class with us in 2017 when he was 8 years old. He built his own bike and came back every year to build a new one as he outgrew his old one. TreJean has also participated in every Summer Camp we have hosted.
We could tell students were nervous to be back in a space with their peers, but they quickly eased back into engaging with the other youth in the space, and were eager to get out and ride. In the one week of programming we saw students begin to open up, and return to themselves.
Together we rode our bikes for 20 hours, visited 8 different city parks, ate a ton of snacks, and talked about what we are looking forward to when we return to a world less distanced.
The return of programming gave a breath of life to our organization after an extremely challenging year. We are excited to be hosting 4 weeks of Urban Cycling Camp this summer, and we can't wait to meet all the young people that will shepherd this adventure.