A little over a month ago, 23 Major Taylor students hailing from four high schools spent two days and one night at the first-ever Major Taylor Youth Leadership Retreat, bonding as a community, cooking healthy food and learning about how to use bicycling as a tool to make a difference in the world. Students met at 9 a.m. and biked between three and 12 miles from their respective schools, congregating at Camp Long in West Seattle.
The weekend was structured so that students had opportunities to interact through games, discussions, preparing food, and free time to explore the climbing wall and the camp grounds. Small groups were assigned, dividing up students from the same schools so that they could intermingle and develop friendships with students from other Major Taylor clubs.
During one activity, Roberto Ascalon, a facilitator and Bike Club leader at Chief Sealth High School, posited a question to the group, “For you, is biking more like Power, Adventure, Community, or Freedom?” The group separated into four smaller groups to discuss why they chose the particular concept to describe biking. Ixael, a student from Highline High School who was in the Freedom group, said, “Biking for me is freedom. When I get on my bike and start riding I just forget what I am really stressed about.” In the Community group, Keanu, a student from Global Connections, expressed that “We ride because it connects our mind, body and soul. Through this connection with ourselves and each other, we create community.” Students in the Power group said, “Biking empowers us to be more confident” and “It helps us to become stronger and realize that we are all leaders.”
After an evening of s’mores and glow-in-the-dark Frisbee, students returned to their cabins for a few hours of rest. The following day, after mouthwatering pancakes and eggs cooked by the morning kitchen crew, the discussion continued, allowing space and time for students to share their stories and brainstorm ways to move the Major Taylor project forward. They came up with ideas from “delivering presentations to schools about the benefits of bicycling on our health and the environment,” to having Major Taylor students stay after school on non-bike club days to tutor friends and classmates.
At one point, a student spoke up and said, “What if we give Major Taylor graduating seniors scholarships for college?” Students bounced ideas off of one another. Miguel took the idea one step further, “What if all the students who ride the STP raise $25, and then if there are 40 students who ride, we would have $1,000 so one of the graduating seniors can have money to buy books? Each kid tries to raise $25 as a pledge [for the STP]. They don’t have to get the money from one person; they could get $1 from 25 people. The students get to vote for which senior they want to give the scholarship to. That way, students are even more involved in ‘making a change.’”
When youth have passion and energy, the possibilities are endless. After this inaugural retreat, we can only hope to provide many more opportunities where students have space to get their wheels turning, on and off the road.