The mission of Bearings Bike Shop is to bring skills to life while illuminating the pathways for possibilities and this extends far beyond teaching kids to earn and maintain a bicycle. We work with young people to help them leverage their inner strengths, build self-confidence, gain valuable employability skills, capitalize on opportunities, and achieve their individual goals. Bearings empowers youth as they develop into successful leaders with purpose, character, and confidence.
Although the prospect of earning a bike is what draws kids to the program, the excitement of learning new skills and being a part of a community keeps them returning, week after week. We exist to engage kids in meaningful, hands-on youth development activities, primarily delivered in three program models (see below).
How it Works
How do participants get started?
Anyone ages 6 - 17 years old can participate if they have a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian. Permission slips can be picked up at the shop or requested by email. firstname.lastname@example.org Parents are always invited to come to the shop, meet the leaders and volunteers, and see how it works. Because of the generosity of our donors, we are able to offer the Skills for Life program at no cost to participants’ families.
How do kids earn bikes?
After signing up with a permission slip, students earn one “star” for each hour they spend in the shop working on bikes or completing other tasks. They may also earn extra stars for things like good grades and community service.
What happens after they earn a bike?
Once they earn a bike or if they already have a bike, students are encouraged to keep coming to the shop to continue earning and learning. They will learn more and more mechanical skills, and staff and volunteer coaches work with participants to help them develop soft skills such as communication and responsibility. As they move up in the levels, they will earn items that demonstrate their hard work such as t-shirts, locks, and lights. When they reach high school, students have the opportunity to apply for a paid internship!
Skills for Life
Incorporating best practices from other youth empowerment initiatives, Skills for Life creates an environment for kids to learn hard skills, soft skills, and character strengths through fun, hands-on learning opportunities. The program functions as a drop-in after school program, inviting kids to learn how to build and fix bikes and in doing so, earn points and work toward specific milestones. The “earn and learn” component of our Skills for Life program provides an excellent opportunity to instill the fundamentals of financial freedom and independence in a fun and concrete way. When students enroll in the program, they are opening up a “star account” through which they will earn, spend, and save in the bike shop. Staff and volunteers coach students in using smart practices, such as saving an “emergency fund” for unexpected flat tires, distinguishing needs from wants, and staying out of debt.
The open shop project-based learning environment focuses on helping kids develop skills in three key areas:
1. Hard skills including bike assembly, tire repair, brake adjustments, and tune-ups.
2. Soft skills such as critical thinking and communication, which can make the difference in getting and keeping a job.
3. Character strengths such as perseverance and responsibility, that help youth do well in high school, college, and their careers.
The bike shop serves as a vibrant community hub where kids can hang out with positive role models, while helping to eliminate idle time, which can sometimes lead to destructive behavior.
The Advanced Job Training program is a paid, part-time internship program for teens. The 8-week program works to prepare students for the workplace through skills development opportunities, money management lessons and workplace field trips that increase their awareness of the various pathways that can be taken in the future. The students receive training and development by working 20 hours a week in the bike shop.
During their work in the shop, they are guided through mechanical skills curriculum and ongoing mechanical training. While in the bike shop, students are given increased responsibility including coaching younger participants at the bike shop and advancing their skills by working to repair customers' bikes.
In addition to job training, students participate in a weekly two-hour financial literacy class. These classes are tailored to students’ needs and use learning activities from Dave Ramsey’s Foundations in Personal Finance, Visa’s Practical Money Skills, and the FDIC’s Money Smart financial education programs to not only increase students’ knowledge but also empower them to change their behaviors to achieve their financial goals.
Gearing Up is a partnership program that works directly with local elementary and middle schools to provide hands-on learning experiences for students at one of Bearings' program locations. Bearings' staff coach the students through a mechanical curriculum, building positive developmental relationships and using authentic experiences to teach responsibility, perseverance, self-management, communication, and critical thinking. Through the use of evaluation (surveys, recorded observations, and performance assessments), Bearings' is able to track students' growth in skill development and to share findings with schools and partners.
A hands-on, student-centered learning experience, Bearings starts with the ultimate icon of childhood - a bicycle - and has designed a unique program that engages students in fun, authentic learning with the guidance of caring adult mentors. Students learn hard and soft skills that propel them forward and help them gain momentum, equipped to tackle challenges in and beyond the classroom. Bearings' work in tandem with school partners to ensure struggling students have the tools they need for success in school and in life.