Conservation Cruisers “Team Awesome” Values Commitment and Earns Bikes

Article, written by Conservation Cruisers Leader Kevin Webster, appears on Southeast Youth Corps' website. Published July 14, 2014.

How often does one hear “Kids these days don’t know how to appreciate anything” and “Kids these days do not know know the value of hard work”?  Well, I can assure you that the graduates of Trips for Kids-Southeast Youth Corps’s Conservation Cruisers directly challenge these assumptions, and I know first hand they break down that stereotype.  This Saturday SYC staff, family members of the participants, Ride Mentors, and community members gathered to show their support for the hard work of these five youth.

On July 12th, 2014 Trips for Kids-Southeast Youth Corps graduated its second team of Conservation Cruisers, also known as “Team Awesome,” and five of them earned their very own mountain bike to continue to bike the trails of Chattanooga.

But what does that mean really, you ask?  For the past five months, six teenagers aged 12 through 15 gave up their Saturday mornings (I repeat, for five months!) to do something they have never done before, with people they did not know, and to take them to places they have never been.  That takes courage, that takes strength, and that takes commitment.  When they decided to make the commitment, they knew what they were working for, a new mountain bike and a helmet, and they were willing to work for it.  They taught themselves a lesson in responsibility, not just to themselves but also to the other team members to show up every Saturday on time, as if it were a job.

But they may also have walked away with benefits and contributions they did not originally anticipate like perseverance, patience, teamwork, and trust.  Mountain biking is a difficult sport.  Any new biker I’ve ever biked with admits the first pains, “This saddle is killing me!”  And it does, and you have to bear it, and you have to do it again.  I saw one of our participants sit atop a steep hill recently, calculating inside her brain the risk, and the worth, and then experience the exhilaration and the thrill of “You did it.  That’s awesome!  Go Glendy!”  Mountain bike volunteer Ride Mentor Jennifer Dzik explained to the group during their graduation, “I know you worked hard, I saw you do it, and it means a lot to me, and I hope to continue to see you on the trails,” as she congratulated them for earning their bikes.

You continue to do it because you want it.  We battled the heat and cold, rain and humidity, and bugs to fulfill our rides and do perform our monthly conservation service work.  Ask any one of these kids what Bush Honeysuckle, English Ivy, Privet, or Poison Ivy looks like, and they’ll gladly show you because they experienced it.  They know it first hand.  As we pulled hundreds of Bush Honeysuckle plants from Old Baldy on Stringer’s Ridge Park we also became acquainted with mosquitoes and sweat.  Going back to that site you can really see the difference and the impact, and that is how we made our mark, and will continue to do so.

Together the participants:

Biked 292 miles

Spent 190 hours in the saddle

Gave 30 hours performing conservation service work

199 hours were spent mentoring youth

To conclude the graduation, we all took a ceremonial ride through the Hill City neighborhood with friends, families, and little brothers and little sisters (future Conservation Cruisers) like we were on top of the world.  One Trips for Kids participant took the time to explain some group riding rules to the group and how to make other riders alert of when cars were in front or behind us before taking off.

If there is anything that I’ve learned from this special experience is that kids will meet the challenge if given a good opportunity.  Their resilience and hard work is evident, and they amaze me each time I see them.  I do not doubt that future Trips for Kids Conservation Cruisers will do the same.