Bike program helps at-risk youth in Wyandotte County

Martin Cervantes Sr. is making a difference in the lives of local at-risk youth with the Lowrider and Leadership Club. (Submitted photo)

by Mary Rupert

High-risk youth in Wyandotte County are being helped through a program that focuses on working on bicycles and attitudes.

Martin Cervantes Sr. said the program started about three months ago, and about 10 students are involved in it currently.

Some of the students in the program are involved with the court system, on probation or house arrest, he said.

The Lowrider and Leadership Club is the project of Cervantes, with assistance from the Olathe Lowrider Bicycle Chapter, and space provided through the KCK PAL (Police Athletic League) Program. The bike program is allowed to use space at the PAL location at the former St. Mary’s Church on 5th Street.

The program provides a basic bicycle kit to youths. For those youth who have failing grades, they will have to bring up their grades to get customized items for their bicycles, such as a seat, handlebars or paint, he said.

If they’re on probation or house arrest, they have to stay away from any violations, and follow rules and regulations, he said. When they do that, the program helps them customize the bicycles, he added.

When the youth graduate from high school or receive their GEDs (general education development certificate), they will take the bike home, he said.

“They earned the bike,” he said. “They’re more than welcome to stay in the program and help us mentor other youth.”

Cervantes said they also have other used bicycles that are donated to the program. The youth clean up the bikes, repair what needs repairing and then give them back to the community to kids in need, he said.

The group has gone to different activities in the community to show off their bikes, he added.

A youth who graduated from high school last month chose to keep his bicycle in the shop, come back and continue to work on it, and continue to help mentor youth in the program, he said.

Currently the group is working with youth who are 13 to 18 years old, in ninth to 12th grades, he said.

“Our main goal is to mentor them and help them graduate from high school,” Cervantes said. “The mentorship is the biggest part of the program. We bring in guest speakers to speak to them, learn from other people the things that can be done with their lives, by sharing or listening to others’ experiences.”

Besides being allowed to use space by PAL and receiving help from the Olathe Lowrider group, the Lowrider and Leadership Club here also has received some funding from the Drug Enforcement Agency, he said. The funding allows them to buy bikes and parts to customize them, he said.

While working on their bikes, the youth also have some other requirements that Cervantes has set, such as doing a good deed every day for someone in need, and making their bed in the morning, he said.

Cervantes is in touch with community corrections, court services, local police and judges. He has chosen to work with the at-risk youth to make a difference in the community.

“It’s a challenge, but I love it,” Cervantes said. “This is my passion.”

For more information about the program, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1597040587301669/?ref=share.

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