Jeff Wescott: "Why being interested in something untraditional can be positive and beautiful"
Why the Arizona based Wheels In Motion After School program is doing things right...
Words: Jeff Wescott Photos: Greg Moliterno (unless otherwise noted) Special Thanks: Michelle Tellez
"Friends Helping Friends", a motto that the Wheels In Motion Foundation was built and founded upon by BMX rider, Ray Tellez, and his family. Ray got in to the Arizona BMX freestyle scene as a teenager in the 80's, had a back yard ramp, a job as a bike mechanic and was part of the Bare Cover Trick Team. He left the scene for a few years to raise a family, but later returned to the sport when Ray and Michelle's son, Jesse, took an interest in the sport. Ray built a mini ramp on their property on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. At the time, skateparks were scarce in Arizona and bikes weren't allowed at most of them. Word spread quickly that the Tellez family had a BMX friendly spot to ride, and became a very popular place for the local riders. Over the years, the Tellez family opened their ramp and home to host numerous traveling teams, barbecues, jams, benefits for injured riders, Road Fools 16, and many other events. Jesse began to progress quickly through influence and with the help of other riders. During this experience, they had met so many people who turned in to life long friends and traveled to so many amazing places together throughout their involvement in BMX, as most of us riders so often do...
They took things as far as they could at a grassroots level from home. They wanted to expand their BMX advocacy efforts which led to the development of the Wheels In Motion Foundation, a 501© 3 Non-Profit Organisation. In 2009, W.I.M. introduced Arizona's first BMX freestyle after school program. Since then, they have expanded in to 7 districts statewide, and have gained approval from the Arizona Department of Education, connecting kids, schools, parents and communities to the next generation of BMX riders. W.I.M.'s Mission Statement : To promote bicycling for sport and exercise in an effort to support healthy active lifestyles. Special focus is placed on reaching disadvantaged youth in underserved communities.
In the two years that I have been involved with the program, I have had such an amazing experience seeing the next generation progress and gain interest in something I have been passionate about for so many years of my life. It has been something I feel so fortunate to be a part of, for I feel it is truly and ultimately beneficial for our youth. Everything from teaching one to ride a bicycle without training wheels for the first time to seeing a group of students learn a trick that they unanimously didn't believe they would be able to do, it's a greatly humbling and eye opening experience as to what is important, powerful and possible through positive influence and interaction with our next generation. That being said I would like to share ten reasons why the Wheels In Motion Foundation benefits our community by making a positive difference...
The organisation is founded by a family that goes above and beyond with their efforts to donate time and make these programs possible and available. This also applies to the students. By the end of each program, the instructor and the students become a "family" of sorts throughout their education and experience.
2. BIKE SAFETY
W.I.M. always encourages all around safe operation of bicycles. We provide and require helmet usage during participation of the program. We teach the functional mechanics of BMX bicycles and instruct on how to adjust and maintain them for safe usage. Although we do get in to the freestyle aspect of learning various manoeuvres and tricks, we start all of our students out with the basic fundamentals of BMX such balance, control and confidence by integrating stopping, turning and other comfortability exercises. We also teach them the Rules of the Road, and how to properly operate a bicycle outside of class.
3. LIFE SKILLS
We teach our students skills that they will apply to their lives every day. Not only Rules of the Road at a young age, but bicycle maintenance like tightening a chain, adjusting parts, and fixing a flat tire. We also encourage good communication and interaction skills by doing team exercises allowing them to make decisions as a group. We meet the real needs and priorities for communities as young people bring new energy, enthusiasm and creative ideas to our organisation.
4. HEALTH AND WELL BEING
Riding bicycles at any level of difficulty is a great form of exercise. We show the younger generation that physical activity and exercise is not only important, but can be fun! Through riding BMX, we teach the students balance, coordination and confidence. We educate, promote and include stretching in to an every day routine of our program. We also provide and promote drinking water and encourage and educate about healthy nutrition information.
"Instructors act as positive role models for all of our program participants. We promote positivity through attitude, camaraderie and teamwork."
Instructors act as positive role models for all of our program participants. We promote positivity through attitude, camaraderie and teamwork. We inform and enforce anti-bullying throughout the duration of our program. We are compassionate with our students by relating to issues and making attempts for create positive solutions for them. Our program creates effective youth development and after school community based programs as young people are more likely to stay engaged when they feel their participation is meaningful. We see our youth in a different way, as resources, not as problems.
Some kids have never been exposed to a bicycle and most have never experienced BMX. Children in our program discover and explore a new activity that they may have never tried prior to class. Many of our students leave class with BMX as a new found hobby and continue to peruse interest after our program comes to an end. STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) provide environmental awareness, demonstrates how science relates to our everyday lives and how each of us can contribute change in order to make a positive difference.
Our students progress both their skills and their confidence step-by-step through exposure to proper example and positive encouragement. Children who participate in our program leave class with more balance and coordination. Also, mostly all of our students leave our program with the ability to perform a variety of 'tricks' on their bikes.
8. DIVERSITY AND YOUTH CULTURE
Wheels In Motion also offers numerous activities and is currently working on more creative outlet programs for the future. Other after school programs include Break-Dancing, Urban Art and Graffiti Art and Ecology. We also offer assembly options where we demonstrate our abilities to entire schools while promoting positive messages and influence through our passion. The objective of the program as a whole is to allow riders, or artists, to positively portray and highlight their art to as many various mediums as possible. The Urban Art programs practice and promote sustainability by using reclaimed materials for our program activities.
W.I.M. is always searching for more ways to expand their program. They recently teamed up with the City of Glendale, AZ to obtain their first ever headquarters at the BMX friendly and public X-Court skate park. Having this amazing location will provide much more opportunity for other programs, activities and events such as hosting video premieres, meet and greets, jams and barbecues. We will also have the ability to open up concessions for the park patrons, offering healthy alternative options in comparison to standard concession such as water, tea and smoothies over soda or energy drinks and trail mix or fresh fruit over candy bars. All of this makes for a stronger and healthier future generation!
Wheels In Motion collaborates with a number of organisations to create a great experience for those who participate in our programs. We partner with many local Vans stores in the Phoenix area to obtain non-profit donations so that we can provide all of our of our participants with a pair of Vans shoes upon closing our program sessions. Our recent partnership with the City of Glendale has provided us opportunity in the near future to provide free lunches to park patrons. These opportunities keep presenting themselves and the possibilities are endlessly positive. Our goal is to connect community leaders with the youth by shedding light on issues and effecting them in an effort to create change.
"We partner with many local Vans stores in the Phoenix area to obtain non-profit donations so that we can provide all of our of our participants with a pair of Vans shoes upon closing our program sessions."
The objective of the Wheels In Motion Foundation is to be a community partner that supports the local scene by providing riders with the opportunity for continued involvement with their passion through creating a possibility to influence the next generation positively. They also believe in the idea to unify action sports, as opposed to having a BMX riders vs. skateboarders type scenario. Their efforts create an example that we can all co-exist in the same environment and benefit from it on all levels as opposed to having skateparks that do not allow bicycles, and they believe in the idea of raising consciousness about this issue. They express the belief that 'caring IS cool' and having passionate involvement in what you believe in and care about is important and necessary for progression. They want to show that being interested in something untraditional can be positive and beautiful. Concluding, the Wheels In Motion Foundation ultimately aspires for our future generation to "Make magic, do good. Be what you are and be what you should." - Jeff Wescott
Legendary dude, legendary ramp...
Luckily as BMXers we are used to dealing with a variety of elements from cold long winters, capped rails, glass, and cops.