Boulder County’s At-Risk and Disabled Youth
Creating new paths of opportunity for at-risk, disabled youth, we’re creating hope for young people suffering from mental health challenges through vocational training in bicycle mechanics. The tragic outcome of Aaron Tuneberg’s life as a disabled young man in our community (see www.AaronsFund.com) highlights the need for meaningful employment and positive social interaction: our program provides both. We assist disabled youth, providing job training and apprenticeships in bicycle mechanics, along with a bicycle for transportation. Uplifting the least among us increases the compassion, connection, and mutual support in our community. The motivating dreams behind this memorial fund are to honor Aaron’s spirit and soul, and in the process to make the lives of other adults with disabilities more meaningful and safer.
We’re working with local bicycle shops to develop job placement for the gradates of our program, teaching classes, and developing new outreach with local organizations such as Boulder B-Cycle Bike Sharing (https://boulder.bcycle.com/), Imagine!, the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Attention Homes and the St. Vrain School District’s Transitions Program. Our goal is to focus on getting our students post-training employment as well as to leverage our experience in order to grow the program within Aaron’s community as well as to share our concept with others.
Transitions’ Methods and Accomplishments
Community Cycles’ Transitions program has already proven that it can improve the lives of disabled young people. The program begins with a 6-week course in bike mechanics. Students come to our shop once a week via school bus for their class. At the end of the 6-week session, students receive a bicycle, along with safety gear (helmet, lock, and light). With their bicycle, students’ essential transportation needs are met: students who can’t drive or can’t afford a car can get to school, work, internships, job training, and more.
After completing the class and receiving their bicycle, students receive a year-long membership in Community Cycles. Students return to our welcoming, supportive bicycle facility to work on their bike, take classes, or become a volunteer. The Transitions program gives students skills that can lead to meaningful employment; some Transitions graduates are already working in Boulder bicycle shops, and all Transitions graduates are considered for a paid apprenticeship at Community Cycles. Of equal importance, the program builds confidence, life skills, and opens doors for safe, meaningful, positive and fun social interactions for our community’s disabled youth.
The Importance of Transitions for Participants and Residents of Boulder County
This program is important because thirteen percent of our school-aged youth receive special education due to a disability. Disabled young people face enormous challenges in finding employment, positive social interactions, and meaningful connections with the community. Less than 80% of people with disabilities are employed. Providing a career pathway including bicycle assembly, maintenance and repair which are tasks with defined outcomes, is recognized by our partners who work with disabled people as an outstanding opportunity.