After School Bike Program Helps Oakland International Students Feel Connected

By: Aiko Hayashi, Administrative Assistant, and Anita Kao, Program and Communications Associate

Diversity is the norm at Oakland International High School, an Oakland Unified school in the Temescal neighborhood—350 students come from 33 countries, speaking 32 languages—and an after school program is helping to bring the student body together, helping them feel more connected to the school as well as to their new home country.

Inspired by earn-a-bike programs at other organizations, teacher David Hansen started an earn-a-bike/bike safety after school program at Oakland International in 2015. Open to all students, grades 9-12, the program involves 12 classes (once a week, for two hours) on topics such as bike safety in urban environments, basic bike repair, and bike route planning. Participants build their own bicycles, and after completing the program, each participant takes home a bike, helmet, and lock.

Drawings of flags from different countries adorn the hallways at Oakland International High School.
The bike rack at Oakland International High School

Nearly all of the students at Oakland International are recent immigrants. 95-98% of them receive free/reduced lunch, and “90% [of students] won’t have or can’t afford a car during high school,” says David. This program provides students with their first bicycle in the U.S. and thus gives students access to transportation. Bike program participants owned and rode bikes in their home countries and are excited to receive their first bikes in the U.S. Many use their bikes to get to and from school.

“I bike all the time…. Even yesterday [when it was pouring outside],” said program participant Hser Gay, during our visit to the school in December. The eleventh grade student, who came to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Thailand, commutes by bike every day from his home in East Oakland, about 30 minutes each way.

Andy, an eleventh grade student originally from China, nodded enthusiastically and said he also uses his new bike to go to school every day. “I don’t need my parents [who have to drop off my siblings at different schools] to take me to school anymore. Now, I’m never late,” he said.

Bike program participants Jose, Kirubel, Andy, and Hser Gay

David has seen his students improve academically and socially as a result of this after school program. He believes the program builds trust between the school and the students, helping them feel like part of the community and allowing them to have ownership over their learning experience in a new country. “They trust the school wants to be helpful and that it’s not a punitive environment,” he said.

With 15 students participating in the program per semester and an additional 25 students participating during the school’s “post session” (the last three weeks of school), David expects a total of 55 program participants—and 55 bikes given out—this school year. As only 4 out of 45 bikes given out over the last two years went to girls, David also plans to start a girls group in the spring.

PVF was happy to award $2,500 to the school to purchase 11 new bikes in the fall. Through PVF’s After School Resource Grant Program, we encourage teachers to come up with new ideas for after school enrichment, providing funds to help cover costs of equipment, teacher time, and/or refreshments. Click here for more information.

Correction: This post originally described Oakland International High School as a charter school. Oakland International is a Full-Service Community School within the Oakland Unified School District. The post has been updated to reflect this.

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