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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 peoples 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 eating habits, have poor school performance, are in a negative peer group, have poor social skills, use drugs themselves or are with a caregiver who does, 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 may be entering the early stages of obesity.

What do they really need to succeed?

After more than 30 years of scientific study of over one million children, we know that two-thirds 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 one-third who make it from the two-thirds 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 and/or 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.


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, and ample opportunity to practice newfound skills and abilities. While we have awarded many cash college scholarships, we still only dream of an ongoing college scholarship fund.

Through our core program and two main ancillary programs (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, pro-social, powerful members of their communities.


In partnership with a school, children learn about bicycles, the city, and culture through experience and art/creative projects. The class rides around the city so that these economically disadvantaged children may be exposed to cultural centers. They also learn how to ride a bike in the city, which is something that must be taught in order to be done safely. These children expand their mobility and access to the resources available to them in the Portland area, which they often don’t take advantage of staying close to home. b.i.k.e. provides technical expertise, support vehicles and personnel, and equipment. The primary teacher is provided by the school.

Program Elements

  • Bike safety

  • Bike etiquette

  • Bike maintenance

  • Exercise and nutrition instruction

  • Artistic instruction surrounding bicycle and culture experience

    • Journals

    • Photography

    • Writing

    • Sketching

    • Museums and galleries

  • Field trips to galleries, museums and libraries on bikes

  • Partnerships with CCC, BTA, Cycle Oregon, Major Taylor Scholarship foundation, and Safe Routes to Schools

Program Outcomes

  • Skill: Bike safety

  • Skill: Bike maintenance

  • Skill: Stretching

  • Knowledge: Nutrition

  • Knowledge: How to navigate city on a bicycle and access cultural centers

  • Artistic experience/expression

  • Physical fitness

  • General self-efficacy

  • Fun

Key Data

  • Number children served: 18

  • Age of children: 14 – 18

  • Gender: female 62% male 38%

  • Ethnicities: 50% African American, 33% Caucasian (3 are Russian), 11% Hispanic, 6% Asian

  • Cost per child: Equipment and % of staff time

  • Length of program: 4 months

  • Length of sessions: 180 minutes

  • Staff to child ratio: 1:3 on rides, 2:18 in

  • classroom


Bicycling scholarships are virtually unheard of in this country. Thus, in order to provide year-round participants with increased access to educational opportunities, we identify individual donors to direct their gift to the college-bound student. This provides team members with several outcomes even before post-high-school education is undertaken. They have an increased sense of hope, greater achievement motivation, and they are inspired to take responsibility for their grades and lives.

Program Elements

  • Eligibility for award

  • b.i.k.e. participant

    • Leader potential

    • Community service

    • Academic competence

    • Apply for 3 other scholarships

  • Financial aid application help

  • Career counseling

  • Bicycle training for possible scholarship

  • Speaking engagements

Program Outcome

  • Achievement motivation

  • Better grades

  • Hope – future sense of self

  • Responsibility

  • Optimism

  • Happiness

  • College education

  • Community connections

Key Data

  • Number children served: 6

  • Age of children: 17-19

  • Gender %: male% 83.3% female% 16.7%

  • Ethnicities: 83.3% African American and 16.7% Caucasian.

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