Bikes hold an immense amount of power. Athletes use them to make money, others use them for recreational excursions as entertainment, and some use them to get their heart rate up, but in poor countries bicycles do so much more. They provide individuals with transportation and an avenue to escape their circumstances.
This semester, the Summit High School Bike Tech Program has partnered with a local organization, Summit in Honduras, to refurbish used or lightly used bikes to be shipped to Honduras for those in need.
The Bike Tech program has been around for four years, but this is the first year Tom Lutke students have had the chance to be involved in a service project of this magnitude.
Rob Phipps of Summit in Honduras came to Lutke with the idea of replicating the bike tech program in the Honduran city of Santa Barbara.
Phipps then contacted a local sports store, Wilderness Sports, which recently closed, to get some used bikes for the Summit bike tech courses to fix.
“The project was a really cool way to give back to the community and provide real-world application for students,” Lutke said.
Lutke said some of the repaired bikes were rough. His students worked for hours in order to restore them to working condition, he said.
The class even got a crash course in grant writing. After applying, Summit High School and the Bike Tech class received the Freeport McMoRan Scholarship, which was used to purchase the parts needed to properly repair the bikes.
In addition to bikes from Wilderness Sports, the Summit Bike Tech program also received bikes from the Dillon Valley East bike junkyard, where many bikes have been dumped over the years but still have beautiful frames.
Over the past six months, the Summit bike tech program has refurbished a total of 24 bikes, and all but three of those bikes will be airlifted to Honduras with the help of the US Air Force through the Denton program.
“In Santa Barbara, we work with a technical school, an orphanage and a clinic, so these three entities are going to help us identify the needs, and we will distribute the bikes once we have them there,” said Phipps.
Phipps is grateful that the Air Force offers the Denton program and that a small nonprofit in Summit County can apply.
“Part of our focus here is – yes (the bikes) are going to Honduras – but it’s first about identifying the needs in the county,” Phipps said. “There are three bikes that we have diverted to locals who have said they need a bike. Our goal is to have this database of what we have, photos of the bikes and to determine d first the local need, then Honduras.
The bikes that will be shipped to Santa Barbara will meet a great community need as bikes have grown in popularity in the area in recent years. The bicycles will also provide reliable transportation for residents.
“The bikes are powerful. They provide transportation and the ability to cover distances you couldn’t otherwise travel,” Phipps said. “Mobility is really what we strive to provide.”
Summit in Honduras also supports the Health Guardian program at Manos Amigas Clinic. The Health Guardian program consists of 38 medically trained men and women from 19 remote mountain villages who act similarly to first responders in the United States.
Thanks to Summit High School’s donation of repaired bicycles, those working with the Health Guardian program can respond more quickly to emergencies in many bicycle-distance Honduran villages.
Summit High School’s bike tech program feels fulfilled by the service project because students feel like they’re giving back while learning lifelong skills.
“We learned how to clean the bikes, remove the handlebars, bleed the brakes and learn all the basic skills for working in a bike shop,” said junior Makena Fox. “It feels good. We had the grant money, we have the parts, so all we had to do was use our skills to build these bikes.
“There are students who know how to work with their hands very well and who have some experience with tools. Some don’t, but they can come here and they can shine,” Lutke said of the impact of the Summit Bike Tech program. “I think kids who learn this kind of skill can apply it to so many aspects of their lives, whether they’re getting into the trades or needing to work on things around the house.”
Phipps and Lutke hope the partnership between Summit in Honduras and Summit High School’s bike tech program will continue to grow over the next few years.
“Next year I would like to take Tom and a group of his students to Honduras and reflect on what they do in this room here at Santa Barbara Technical School,” Phipps said. “So when those bikes fall, they’ll take them to tech school and put them back together.”
Lutke said it was important to thank Freeport McMoRan for the grant money for the bike parts, Wilderness sports for donating the bikes, and Carvers Ski and Bike Rentals, Pioneer Sports and Rebel Sports for the bike boxes.
His classes said they were grateful to Phipps and Summit in Honduras for not only shipping the bikes, but also for coming up with the idea to start this service project.