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Serving Their Community Two Wheels at a Time

SkillsUSA students donate their time and skills to provide refurbished bikes for local children living in Habitat for Humanity homes.
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Photos courtesy of Cape Cod Technical High School.

During the pandemic, cycling gained renewed interest as a fun outdoor activity.  SkillsUSA chapter members at Cape Cod Technical High School (CCTHS) in Harwich, Mass., noticed their own community was impacted by a bicycle shortage that was made worse by increased prices. An idea was born: Through their longtime connection with their local Habitat for Humanity, the chapter would lead a bicycle drive and refurbishing effort to serve local families.

SkillsUSA advisor Peggy Reilly-O’Brien, a dental assisting teacher and the school’s SkillsUSA advisor, explains: “We worked with Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod for four years now. In the past, we have done fundraising for them and worked on houses they are building. During the 2020-21 school year, we planned on continuing our relationship with them, but with the restrictions in place due to COVID, we had to become more creative. The bike drive and refurbishing project provided a perfect venue for continuing our relationship with Habitat and our community.”

The seven students who worked on the project sent out emails and made announcements to faculty, staff and students, asking them to scour their basements and sheds for working bikes to donate. As a result, the chapter collected 15 bikes by SkillsUSA Week’s community service day in February of 2021.

The students created an inventory of repairs and parts needed, and one member of the group was able to train others in making repairs. Tasks like using solvents to clean chains, prepping bikes for painting, sanding, repainting and removal and replacement of broken parts were all part of the process. Students also made sure to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to maintain a safe work environment. The students embraced the opportunity to learn these new skills, using talents they apply in their career and technical education programs.

Along with their technical skills, students demonstrated the SkillsUSA Framework  Essential Element of “Planning, Organizing and Management” by establishing a timeline for bicycle collection, when repairs could be completed and when the bikes could be delivered to Habitat for Humanity. That delivery happened by spring break.  

“Working on this project was a great learning experience,” says senior Christina Okuniewicz. “I enjoyed being able to repurpose bikes for the children in the community. We learned a lot by working on the bikes, and now the finished bikes have new homes.”

“I enjoyed learning about how to refurbish the bikes, and I also learned about the organization and management side of the project,” adds senior Shannen Hardy. “I can’t wait to see what we do for next year’s project, because I know it will be even bigger and better.”

Through the project, students demonstrated a thoughtful understanding of at least two of the SkillsUSA Framework’s 17 Essential Elements: “Service Orientation” and “Planning, Organizing and Management.”They responded to a local need, developed a well-coordinated plan and optimized human and material resources for completion.

Some awareness-raising media attention was generated, too, including mentions in area newspapers and an appearance on Channel 5 News in Boston. In that segment, students were joined by Wendy Cullinan, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod.

The project also earned CCTHS’s SkillsUSA chapter a designation as a gold-level “Chapter of Distinction,” an honor that’s part of SkillsUSA’s Chapter Excellence Program. The chapter was later named one of SkillsUSA’s top 24 “Models of Excellence” programs for 2021.

“In a challenging year,” reflects Reilly-O’Brien, “this project brought us many happy moments.”

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