A Bonita-based nonprofit is improving the lives of local at-risk teenagers through bicycling.
San Diego Velo Youth, a 10-year-old, values-based nonprofit offers disadvantage teens 18 hours of coaching in cycling at the track in Balboa Park’s San Diego Velodrome.
Coaches use a curriculum called STARS — Self-Respect, Teamwork, Achievement, Responsibility, and Success to teach disadvantage teenagers the importance of values.
“We have a cycling program that brings kids down to the track but not only to teach cycling, more so that we teach values,” said Matt Hoffmann, San Diego Velo Youth President and director of Youth Program Development.
At the completion of the program, students receive a free bicycle, helmet and a lock.
Hoffmann said building a teenager’s self-esteem is important because it teaches them how to set goals, and once goals are set they will be able to achieve those goals and realize that goals are attainable if they work hard and make good choices.
Hoffmann said bicycling is a perfect way to teach teenagers about achieving goals. He said in order to ride a bike, a student has to take action to peddle and navigate where to go, the bike itself won’t move.
Hoffmann said the program works with disadvantaged youth in schools throughout the county.
He said the program considers disadvantaged teenagers students who receive free or reduced-price lunch at school.
San Diego Velo Youth partners with schools where 75 percent of the student population participates in the free or reduced-price lunch program such as Chula Vista Middle School and National City Middle School.
Chula Vista Middle School teacher Sandra Bishop said she has seen the impacts Velo Youth has had on students at Chula Vista Middle School.
“The coaches at Velo Youth really take the time to help them see their future, and what are the possibilities for them and setting goals,” she said.
“The value of earning a bike that they’ve done on their own without their parents giving it to them means a lot to them.”
Bishop helps select the students at Chula Vista Middle to participate in the Velo Youth program.
Hoffmann said often times disadvantage children do not know their full potential, so the nonprofit tries to help teenagers realize what they can accomplish.