When Center for Latino Progress staff members Tony Cherolis and Yanil Terón looked around Hartford for inspiration to engage teens in a program that would teach them the type of life skills they would need to obtain and keep a job, they found their answer – bicycles. When the last bike shop in Hartford closed in 2014, the Center realized that this was an opportunity to create a community bike shop with youth programming that would go beyond the simple need for transportation and address multiple community needs. Through this program, youth learn how to repair bicycles for sale or donate them to schools and other youth-serving organizations. The BiCi Co. program is located at 95-97 Park Street storefront.
At least 24 Latino high school students in Hartford will have an opportunity to participate in the BiCi Co. effort with the assistance of a $20,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Latino Endowment Fund. The year-round program will offer work-based learning, career competencies development, project-based math, mechanics, history lessons, and entrepreneurial education.
Karon Williams, a junior at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, was one 30 students in the Center’s summer youth employment and service learning program learning bike safety, mechanics and history. This summer program served as the genesis of BiCi Co. (Bicicleta y Comunidad). "I actually have learned a lot. There are a lot of things on a mountain bike that I didn’t know how to fix before, that I just now learned how to fix and put back together".
“In the City of Hartford, 77 percent of our youth live in poverty and experience high unemployment and limited job prospects due to mobility constraints,” said Teron, the Center for Latino Progress’ executive director. “The Latino Endowment Fund grant is an investment in our youth by providing a unique, safe and smart environment for them. This program engages them intellectually in STEM topics while providing safe and healthy transportation options and opportunity to give back to their community.”
Cherolis, who serves as the Center’s youth programs director, is a former engineer at Pratt & Whitney and an experienced bike mechanic, serves as lead instructor for the BiCi Co. program. Participants are taught about career competencies, bike safety and mechanics, science, the economics and environmental impacts of transportation choices, Hartford’s rich history, and the significance of bicycles in their culture. The youth also benefit from mentoring and learning experiences with the goal of completing high school and enrolling in technical training or college. In addition the 46-hour, year-round course will include career and college research and exploration, entrepreneurial education using BiCi Co. as a “real life” example of a start-up social enterprise, project-based learning through direct engagement in bicycle repair, learning about green technology and urban planning, and community service activities.
“We know that the one of the most valuable tools to future career success is having an opportunity to develop work skills in a real world setting,” said Nelly Rojas Schwann, chair of the Latino Endowment Fund steering committee. “This program allows young people to develop more solid career pathways by providing them with a variety of skills and educational opportunities.”
The Latino Endowment Fund was founded in 2003 by Latino leaders in Greater Hartford to increase philanthropy in their community and to strengthen nonprofits working to improve the quality of life for Latino residents. Members examine issues affecting the Latino community and recommend grants from the fund to address those issues. For more information, contact Wanda Y. Correa at 860-548-1888 or email@example.com or go to www.hfpg.org/latino.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrates ninety years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of more than $600 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.
The Center For Latino Progress – CPRF, (the Center)’s, mission is to advance the social and economic conditions of the community at large, with emphasis on Hispanics, through education, training, supportive services, leadership development and advocacy. The Center was formerly known as CT Puerto Rican Forum and opened its doors in 1978. The BiCi Co. program is located at 95-97 Park Street storefront.
[Pictured: Karon Williams with his bike.]