our theory of change

The challenge

Many of our youth participants face multifaceted obstacles to success: economic insecurity and generational poverty; under-resourced and underperforming schools; and disproportionate violence, crime, and risk of incarceration. These obstacles become impenetrable barriers when young people do not have the hard and soft skills needed to access and capitalize on opportunities. Recognizing these barriers, Bearings Bike Shop focuses on the ways young people can break down those barriers and become agents of change for themselves and their communities.

what we do

We provide hands-on learning opportunities that are designed to allow students of all ages to develop technical and soft skills for life and work ethic in a fun, engaging environment in which they are mentored and guided by caring adults. Currently, these are expressed in three programs:

Skills For Life is a drop-in after school program where participants can earn a bike while learning bike repair and maintenance. Bearings teaches participants mechanical skills and allows participants to use accumulated points to purchase bike parts and accessories and to use the shop resources to maintain their bikes. The environment invites staff and volunteers to build relationships with students and reinforce the character strengths that are leveraged in the bike shop environment.

Gearing Up is a school partnership program that offers hands-on, student-centered learning experiences and intervention for struggling students. Currently serving four of Purpose Built Schools’ Atlanta’s schools in south Atlanta, select small groups participate in classes at one of our bike shops. Our staff coach the students through our mechanical curriculum, building positive developmental relationships and using authentic experiences to teach soft skills and character strengths similar to Skills for Life.

Finally, Frameworks is an 8-week intensive internship program that seeks to prepare high school students to succeed in the workplace through employment and advanced mechanical skills training, money management lessons and career exploration excursions that increase their awareness of vocational opportunities. Participants receive training and development while earning a paycheck working as student leaders in the bike shop.



  • Youth have positive identity as demonstrated by a sense self-efficacy, belonging, optimism, and purpose.

  • Youth have fundamental knowledge of bicycle maintenance and repair.


  • Youth have advanced mechanical knowledge and skills.

  • Youth demonstrate soft skills (i.e.responsibility, self-control, perseverance, critical thinking, and communication) at the shop, at school, and at home.

  • Youth ride bikes often for leisure and transportation.

  • Youth have a sense of efficacy and positive attitudes toward school.

  • High school students are ready for the workforce and aware of vocational choices.

  • High school students have financial knowledge and money management skills.



  • Youth will be better prepared to transition into education, training, or employment leading to economic empowerment and autonomy.


  • Youth will give back and act as positive role models in their communities.

  • Youth will reap health and transportation benefits from bike riding

  • Program graduates will be assets for their employers and the greater economy. 


Bearings’ stakeholders include:

  • Youth & their families

  • Staff, Volunteers, & Board of Directors

  • Local schools

  • Non-profit and church partners

  • Community members and leaders

  • Employers, especially in skilled workforce sectors


This Theory of Change is based on the following assumptions:

  • Many opportunities exist that young people can take advantage of if they possess the necessary skills. Emphasizing 4-year college as the exclusive or most reliable path to vocational and economic opportunity can be counterproductive.

  • Youth actively engage in learning when it is hands-on, fun, and relevant.

  • We can and must teach soft skills and character; they are not predetermined or innate.

  • Soft skills and character strengths are learned through authentic experiences with the guidance of caring, trusted adult mentors.

  • A true sense of self-efficacy is developed by tackling challenges and overcoming them, learning and persevering through failure, and experiencing success that is validated by honest assessment.