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The Bike Shop brings to life old bikes and new opportunity

The Bike Shop brings to life old bikes and new opportunity
Posted on 10/08/2019
The Golden Optimists have partnered with Jeffco’s Connections Learning Center to teach the art of bike repair to CLC students.For a few minutes every Friday, time comes to a standstill here in a little outbuilding at Connections Learning Center in Golden. Working on a bike tends to have that effect, because of the intense concentration required to do the job right.

“Some days it’s like flat tire, something like that. And sometimes it's like bad brakes,” explains Eddie Burkey, a Connections Learning Center student. 

Fellow student Simon Padilla revels in the process - “...fixing the sprocket  - I like to get my hands dirty.”

Another student talks of new learning - “I learned how to fix a derailer, and I learned what the cassette looks like on the inside of a bike,” says Jared Opie. 

These bike fixers are all Connections students who have come to the Learning Center to get back on track after various academic or interpersonal challenges. They come here after a full week of regular classes at the center.

Teachers are in on the repair too. Nikki Fitterer, a Connections Learning Center teacher explains that studnents are "learning a lot of problem solving. I know Jared today was working on figuring out these brakes. I think they've actually been working for three weeks on getting these brakes to work. And so they went through a lot of trial and error, so that idea of using mistakes to learn what is going to work, and that applies in all classrooms.”

The bike repair instructors are all members of the Golden Optimists who relocated their bike recycling shop to the Connections campus a few years ago. Suzy Stutzman of the GOlden Optmists says, "this was a great fit for the school of having some hands-on things next door. We want to serve the community of Golden, as far as people having good access to come here.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in this bike shop, including former landscape architects, airline pilots, and educators. But most of the students have no idea about any of that. They’re just looking for someone who knows their way around a pair of cable cutters or an allen wrench.

Opitmist Nikki Fitterer proudly notes, "It is great to watch them learn something and get that sense of accomplishment and then just jump in. One of the things we really try to emphasize is you might not know how to do it but you can figure it out." 

But what happens to the bike once it's refurbed? “One of the things we really try to stress is the empathy where these bikes end up going. I mean they get donated or they get sold off to help fund the Golden Optimists. But I think what really attracts the kids to it is the hands-on nature of working on the bike. Learning how to work on it is something that seems more relevant to them sometimes than some of the other academic subjects we do,” explains Ken Graves, Connections Learning Center teacher.

Some of the bikes are given away to people in need, including the homeless. Others are gifted to families who can’t afford bikes. And still others are used in Jeffco’s adaptive physical education program, like the one at Everitt Middle School.  

The students say coming to the Bike Shop, fixing what’s wrong, makes them feel good. “Giving them a bike and ... I made this bike for you. And there you go,” says student-turned-bike-fixer Simon Padilla. 

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