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This past Wednesday, ten more girls graduated from my ‘Girls in Gear’ program.  To date, three ‘Girls in Gear’ program cycles have taken place and 20 girls have gone through the program.  The latest program was held at the Vaughn-Hairston YMCA in the village of Urbancrest outside of Grove City.  James Lewis and Becky Brown were such incredible hosts that I couldn’t have asked for a better facility.  I absolutely love being hosted by the YMCA.  The staff always treat me graciously and they have some of the best volunteers!  THANK YOU!

This cycle was the biggest group I’ve had which was a great learning lesson.  This cycle, the girls also worked in ‘Girls in Gear’ Workbooks I created.  After each session, not only do the girls fill out what they learned in their workbooks, I also ask them questions that get them to think about themselves in a positive manner as well each other.

‘Girls in Gear’ has changed my life.  I love seeing these girls on a weekly basis and them running up to me to give me a hug.  They have such simple needs that I feel so overly happy that I’m able to fullfill – at least for a small chunk of time.  No matter what socio-economic background you’re from, all young girls need to be empowered.  All young girls need to feel confident in themselves and have that sense of self-reliance.  Resources are limited in under-served neighborhoods.  And, it’s usually the under-served neighborhoods that have the wide, fast streets – disconnecting neighbors from one another and the pleasntry of enjoying one’s neighborhood.

In these neighborhoods, kids at the age of nine think it’s ‘normal’ to walk in litter-filled streets, see prostitutes on the corners, and gun casings on the ground.  It’s ‘normal’ for a school’s playground to close down because comdoms and used syringes were found.  It’s ‘NORMAL!’  Would this be ‘normal’ in Bexley?  A lot of these girls have gone through more than what a lot of adults have gone through.  They are resiliant.  They may be rough around the edges but once you’ve chipped away, they are smooshy and gracious and humble.  I remember over the summer when ‘Girls in Gear’ was held at the Gladden Community House, I brought in helmets for the girls for our road riding sessions.  Once our sessions were finished, I said, ‘keep them.’  I remember one girl saying, ‘really  we can keep these?’  They were thrilled at having these fun (and chic) helmets that during the other ‘skill-building’ sessions of the program, the girls would wear their helmets.  Simple pleasures.

I keep in touch with a handful of the girls through the ‘Girls in Gear’ facebook page.  I always want to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing.  I’m also working towards getting a handful of them to ride in 2014 Mayor’s Twilight Ride.  I think they would absolutely love it.  I want them to know that I have invested in them.

‘Girls in Gear’ Cycle 3 (c3) had a great addition.  Mike Foley of WCBE, Columbus’ local NPR Station heard me present at Pecha Kucha Columbus about ‘Girls in Gear.’  He reached out to do a story on the program.  This past Wednesday, it was aired on ‘Morning Edition.’  It was so incredible to hear how elegant and bright these young girls were, speaking to Mike.

I really look forward to watching ‘Girls in Gear’ blossom into a program that can take place anywhere.  Girls need to feel good about getting their hands dirty.  They need to feel good about their bodies and understand healthy decision-making through nutrtion.  Girls need to feel confident in hearing their voices and hearing their thoughts out loud.  Girls need to feel self-reliant when navigating their neighborhoods and streets and not feel the need to rely on anyone else.

I want to thank:  Mimi Webb (Trek Bicycle), Kelly Martyn (formerly of Green Bean Delivery), Anna Hanley (Roll), Emily Burnett (Paradise Garage), Amanda Golden-Blevins (ACP  Visioning + Planning), and Abby Kravitz (MKSK Design Firm).  ‘Girls in Gear’ wouldn’t be what it is without the trust of these professional women.  Thank you.

Enjoy some photos from GiG C3 at Vaugh-Hairston YMCA

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The ‘Girls in Gear’ Workbook
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Showing that they know hand-signals

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Workbook time!

GiG C3 22They LOVED their Road Riding Sessions!

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Kelly is teaching the girls basic Nutrition Education.  The girls got to sample all types of fruits and vegetables and if you can see the papers on the table, Kelly made vegetable-colored diagrams which explain the benefits of colors for fruits and vegetables!

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I.  Love.  This.
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Emily is teaching the ‘why’ behind gears and shifting

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Anna is assisting the girls as they change flat tires and learn how to properly inflate tires.

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Teamwork is beautiful!

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Constant smiles with teaching this rambunctious crew.

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Amanda is prepping the girls prior to the neighborhood walk-audit.

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Taking our neighborhood walk-audit.  The village of Urbancrest has no sidewalks.  Mike Foley of Columbus’ NPR joined and recorded this session.

GiG C3 6Everyone discussing what they observed during the walk-audit.  Elements that were positive, negative; what’s need improved, etc.

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A brand new neighborhood!  Schools, sidewalks, markets.  I’d live there!GiG C3 11

Abby is holding up one of the great examples from the ‘urban design’ neighborhood re-design.GiG C3 10

Sidewalks, and bike lanes, and tetherball, Oh, My!GiG C3 9Creativity + STEM-Based learning = SOLID GOLD

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The girls LOVED Mimi.  Who doesn’t.

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Ten more young leaders!  Hundreds more go!

 

 

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Yes, I know I’m overdue for a post.  Here it is:  ‘Girls in Gear’ round 2.  One of the summer program locations for the awesome ‘Girls in Gear’ is Gladden Community House.  I fell in love with this place a couple of years ago.  The kids that spend time here are full of love and big, huge smiles (most of them :)).

When I presented my program over there, they jumped at it and LOVED the idea.  So, since June 10th, I’ve been over there empowering five young girls and let me tell you, it’s been incredible.  These girls absolutely have fallen in love with ‘Girls in Gear.’  Thus far, we have taught the girls:  bicycle safety, basic bicycle mechanics, nutrition education, and they are currently working on the ‘community urband design’ portion of the program.  Monday, we performed a walk-audit of the neighborhood and they were extremely engaged.

I feel truly humbled to have created this program.  Not only is this a one of a kind program, I think what contributes to making ‘Girls in Gear’ so incredible are all of the female professionals helping me make it awesome.  They understand and believe that more young girls need the confidence and need to feel that they can pursue any career that they want.  These young girls need the motivation and positive reinforcement by adults that they can have engineer careers, that they can use their bikes as main modes of transportation, and that should something break on their bikes – they have full ability to fix it themselves.

“Girls in Gear’ is so much more than just a ‘bicycling program.’  It’s motivation.  It’s self-reliance building.  It’s self-esteem building.  It’s teaching them technical skills and healthy decision making at an early and cruical age where they can begin a pattern of lifelong decision making that’ll influence the rest of their lives.  ‘Girls in Gear’ is about mentorship and investment in these young leaders.

Here are a few photos of the current ‘Girls in Gear’ at Gladden Community House in the Franklinton neighborhood.

Be safe and keep riding!

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The girls decorated helmets and explained why it’s important to wear helmets when riding

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Kelly of ‘Green Bean Delivery’ taught two ‘Nutrition Education’ sessions to the girls.  Lots of yummy samples came along with learning!

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Anna of ROLL going over the parts of the bicycle.  In Session 2, the girls remembered and could recite 95% of the bicycle terminology

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Session 1 – the girls learned and changed multiple flat tires all by themselves.  Pretty awesome to watch

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Session 2 of bike mechanics.  The girls practicing release brakes and tires; both front and rear.

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Team work!!

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Emily of Paradise Garage

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Emily and Anna both showing the girls how to maintain and clean your bikes.

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Bicycle Safety / Group riding day!

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Aren’t they beauty’s!

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Mimi of Trek Bicycles came out and helped out.  We did a couple parking lot drills with signage and then rode as a group through Franklinton

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Seriously, how beautiful is this image!!!

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Session 1 of ‘Community Urban Design.’  The girls are comparing what makes a ‘friendly’ street and what makes an ‘un-friendly’ street

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The girls looking and planning out our ‘walkability’ study around the neighorhood.

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The incredible Amanda Golden (City & Regional Planner) came and taught the first session of ‘Community Urban Design’ to the girls.  P.S.  the girls LOVED their helmets I got them so much that they showed up on Monday wearing them.  They literally didn’t take them off.  Case and point above 🙂

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Standing and discussing the eye-sore and ‘uncomfortable’ feeling when passing in front of vacant homes.  Unfortunately, this is a common visual in the Franklinton neighborhood.

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Amanda and the girls rating their walk/neighborhood with a ‘walk audit’.

 

 

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So, back in November, I organized my monthly ‘2 Wheels’ night to be a basic mechanics evening.  Ladies were very interested and asked if I could set something up and of course I did.  It was a super successful evening at Paradise Garage.  Emily Burnett and Sarah Elizabeth were fantastic in teaching the ladies the basics about their bicycles.

Well, post holidays, I received requests about another basic mechanics evening since folks missed the first one as well as folks just learning so much from the first one – they wanted another.

So this time, Trek Bicycle Store off of Lane Ave hosted us.

42 women showed up last night.  Women ranging from 11 yrs old to 50’s and older.  Numerous ethnic backgrounds and riding abilities.  All women wanting to know best practices, the ‘dos’ and ‘don’t’s’ when riding your bike.  Trek’s Raeda and Rhonda took the ladies through the basics of changing a flat, shifting gears, lubing your chain, cleaning your bike due to weather, riding clothing, as well as a few safety tips.  I’m very conscious of ending these events around 9pm.  We’re women and we have numerous responsibilities let alone, we seem to always over extend ourselves.  Well, last night women were asking such wonderful questions that even after the event, women stayed to continue to ask questions.

This kind of an environment was so humbling to be a part of.  It was comfortable, and nobody felt foolish when asking their questions.  The environment and the experiences that took place last night are exactly why I do this.  There IS a need for empowering women and providing women with these kinds of environments so they can build their confidence to ride more.

I feel like women left last night really excited about what they learned and about what’s to come for Women on Bikes -2013 in Columbus.  I look forward to weather being beautiful and the ‘2 Wheels & Heels’ ride being out of control, over populated with women coming from all over wanting to become more confident in their riding.

Women make up over 85% of the decision making within families today.  We are the majority when it comes to volunteering in our communities as well as when it comes to taking our kids to school.  If women are confident and excited about riding their bikes, its going to be that much easier to funnel that excitement to their kids.  The bike needs to be ‘normalized’ and women will be the one’s to do this.

Enjoy the photos from last night’s mechanics.  Thanks again to Trek Bicycle Store of Lane Ave.  If you’re a fb user, be sure to search ‘2 Wheels & Heels’ and ‘LIKE’ us.  Also, search for ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit’ as myself and two other colleagues are organizing the first statewide women’s bicycling summit – here in Columbus, Ohio.

Be safe and keep riding.

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Hundreds and hundreds of bike riders gathered at Genoa Park on Friday to celebrate… bikes!  Such a perfect evening.  Wasn’t too hot.  Bike riders of all ages, all sizes, and all colors came out to support Consider biking and how awesome bikes are.  Talk about a vibrant and livable downtown on Friday.  With Bike Fest, Food Cart Fest, and Firewater happening, thousands of folks peppered the downtown streets.  Distances of 10-20 miles around all pockets of the city.  There’s nothing like exploring your own city or exploring  a new city, on a bike.

The ride ended back at Genoa Park where Waterfire took place which was really beautiful.  I did not ride this year as I was happy to stay back and ‘hold down the fort.’  I ran into a few friends and had the most splendid, spntaneous evening.  I mean, how can you beat:  bikes, summer, friends, waterfire, sunset, and laughter.  You can’t.

Enjoy the photos and keep riding.

Nothing helps like loads of volunteers to help keep an event running smoothly!  Thank you, volunteers!

What a guy he is!  Talk about super advocate!  Very lucky to know this man.

 

I can’t say anything more except:  I.  LOVE.  TREK.

I LOVE this photo!

Awesome friends I ran into!

WaterFire

The Mayor participated after finishing up the bike ride.

I love summer

 

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