Statement of need
Who are "at-risk" youth?
In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued its report, A Nation at Risk. Since then, the term at-risk has been used to identify specific social-psychological problems that limit many young people's potential for becoming responsible and productive adults.
Unfortunately, the term "at-risk youth" has taken on such broad connotations that it must be specifically defined to be useful. In the current context, at-risk youth are those who have some of the following characteristics: live in chronic poverty, go to a poor school, have poor school performance, are in a negative peer group, have poor social skills, use drugs themselves or are with a caregiver who does, are a minority, live in a bad neighborhood (drugs, violence, lack of things to do, low community support), or have a family situation characterized by stress, excessive work load and hours, depressed caregiver, lack of structure and rules, poor parenting skills, or negative role models. These are necessarily general, but they are illustrative.
Risk falls along a continuum. Having one or two risk factors would likely place a child in the minimal- or remote-risk category. A high risk child, for example, might be one who goes to a poor school, hangs out with a bad crowd, is aggressive, and does gateway drugs such as smoking or alcohol. A child at imminent risk, for example, might be one who engages in early sexual behavior, has been in legal trouble, has dropped out of school, and does hard drugs.
What do they really need to succeed?
After more than 30 years of scientific study of over one million children, we know that 2/3rds of moderate- to high-at-risk youth will fall by the wayside and experience one or more of a host of negative outcomes. We also know what separates the 1/3rd who make it from the 2/3rds who don't. The children who make it are said to be resilient and the study of resiliency has yielded a core set of characteristics that matter above all others.
Those fundamental personal assets are: general self-efficacy (independence/self-confidence), hope & goals (future sense of self), positive peer influence, self-esteem, social skills (responsibility, empathy, cooperation, assertiveness, & interpersonal skill), the ability to delay gratification/have impulse control/be restrained, and a tolerance for stress.
Outside of the school system, which often fails children from lower socio-economic areas, it is up to the family, church, community, and dedicated mentors to provide these resiliency elements. Targeting the community, mentor, and family domains, a unique and powerful opportunity to be a force in at-risk youth's lives has been created.
Opportunity for children
While there are many models and programs around that try and give children these fundamental assets, few are as comprehensive and affordable as b.i.k.e. - Bicycles and Ideas for Kids Empowerment. Through an innovative program with national recognition ranging from the US Olympic Training Center to the Oprah show, b.i.k.e. enhances the fundamental elements of resiliency and much more.
The bicycle is a tool that we use to encourage children to race after all kinds of dreams. It draws out the children's strength and courage, and challenges their fear. Bicycling is both individually driven (competing with yourself) and team driven (competing with others). It teaches discipline, teamwork, leadership, and self-confidence. b.i.k.e. is much more than bicycles though; the organization provides mentors, academic tutoring, career guidance and workplace skills, a scholarship fund, and ample opportunity to practice newfound skills and abilities.
Through our two core programs and four ancillary ones (please see our individual program summaries for further information), b.i.k.e. makes a strong, individualized commitment to each rider. We teach them personal empowerment, which leads to transformation in their lives. As we like to say, "The children are in training for life's cycles." Our lofty outcomes are built upon a solid foundation of research-proven strategies for helping at-risk youth become productive, prosocial, powerful members of their communities.
Needs of b.i.k.e.
This exceptional program, which has more 13-15 year-old African American women team members than any other cycling program in the country, has been built upon the blood, sweat, and tears of a very small group of exceptional and dedicated volunteers for over three years. While b.i.k.e. has been incredibly effective to date, it is at a place where funds need to be secured to insure that the program is sustainable and increasingly vital in 2, 5, and 10 years. We want to make sure that kids will continue to have the opportunity to participate in this innovative program. Utilizing this effective model on a broader scale in Portland and other cities is also a goal of this organization.
In order to achieve those ends, b.i.k.e. needs to secure funding to operate our programs and build a foundation from which we can operate in the future. We are asking you to invest with us as have Oprah, Nike Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Black United Fund, Portland State University, PGE/Enron, US Bank and scores of other organizations and individuals.
Thank you for helping us to change lives, one pedal stroke at a time.