2017-05-04 / Schools

Bike drive benefits students in need

Some must walk miles to class
By Dawn Megli-Thuna


DONATIONS NEEDED—Pete Martinez, left, a member of the park district’s youth outreach staff, identified a need for bicycles among some of the high school students he was mentoring. So he started a donation drive. Upon learning of Martinez’s effort, Michael Thomas, right, of Michael’s Bicycles in Newbury Park, got on board. 
DAWN MEGLI-THUNA/Acorn Newspapers DONATIONS NEEDED—Pete Martinez, left, a member of the park district’s youth outreach staff, identified a need for bicycles among some of the high school students he was mentoring. So he started a donation drive. Upon learning of Martinez’s effort, Michael Thomas, right, of Michael’s Bicycles in Newbury Park, got on board. DAWN MEGLI-THUNA/Acorn Newspapers You’ve heard of going the extra mile. What about two? Or three or four? For some Conejo Valley High School students, the road to school is longer than it should be.

At least 10 students currently enrolled at CVHS have to walk over three miles to get to school every day, said Pete Martinez, a member of the Conejo Recreation and Park District’s youth outreach staff.

Based out of the Teen Center but operating independently, CRPD’s youth outreach program works with hard-to-reach middle and high school students, often with difficult home lives, who are in need of positive role models.

Martinez said just getting to class on time every day is a challenge for some of the young people he mentors, not because they’re irresponsible but because they live miles away and don’t have transportation.

A father himself, Martinez decided recently to start up a donation drive for bicycles to make the trek easier.

“A lot of these teens feel like no one cares,” Martinez said. “But if someone you don’t even know gives you a bike, that will change their way of thinking.”

Martinez said he’s gotten to know many CVHS students during his 23 years working with underprivileged youth and that in light of their disadvantages, he’s surprised some students manage to come to school at all.

“They’re good kids living in difficult situations,” he said.

There are different reasons why a teen may be without a ride to school: Some aren’t old enough to drive, or their parents need the car to go to work. Other households have no car at all.

“Some kids are living in poverty in a house with three or four other families,” he said.

Martin Manzer, principal of CVHS, said something as small as a city bus pass may be unaffordable. Even with a bus pass, he said, the system doesn’t lend itself to time efficiency: A student might arrive an hour early for class even after traveling by bus for two hours.

“That’s asking a lot,” he said. “It affects their motivation.”

After learning of Martinez’s efforts, Michael Thomas of Michael’s Bicycles in Newbury Park agreed to offer 20 percent off any bike in his store that was to be donated to a CVHS student.

“I got on board because it’s a great cause and I like to do anything I can for the community,” Thomas said.

Because of his bike shop’s proximity to Conejo Valley High School, the 32-year Newbury Park resident said he’s seen firsthand students walking to classes.

“We certainly see the kids come and go, so we see their situation and we sympathize with it,” he said.

Martinez is accepting donations of bicycles, either new or in good working order. While CVHS is the first campus he’s doing this for, he said the need exists at all Conejo Valley Unified high schools and would consider expanding the effort to other campuses.

“CVHS was a good place to start, but students struggle with transportation at every high school campus,” he said.

Manzer said he appreciates Martinez’s passion in advocating for the most vulnerable students.

“We consider him a big part of our school,” he said. “He’s someone I really respect and value for what he brings to our program.”

IN A NUTSHELL

To donate a bicycle, contact Pete Martinez at pete@crpd.org or call the Teen Center at (805) 494-5156.

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