Hannah Geilneufeld writes from the field "Since the last blog post Essie and I have been very busy teaching Learn to Ride classes. We have held classes or series of classes at five different organizations (Sarah’s Oasis for women, Minnesota Karen Organization, Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services, and Seward Neighborhood Group) and had a total of 28 students. Its exciting to see groups of adults determined to learn a new skill together.
When Hannah Geil-Neufeld ’13 was defining global citizenship for her Live It Fund application, she wanted her interpretation to connect closely to her community instead of being something broad and far removed. For Geil-Neufeld, all it took was two wheels. “My definition actually came out in a very concrete way: bicycling as a sustainable form of transportation,” says Geil-Neufeld, a studio art major and Hispanic studies minor from Chicago. “It’s a smart way to commute as a citizen of St. Paul and the world.”
Geil-Neufeld’s application with environmental studies major Essie Schlotterbeck ’13 (Auburn, Maine) is one of six Mac student projects that will be funded this summer by a Live It grant. Created and run by the college’s Institute for Global Citizenship Student Council, the Live It Fund is in its third year and supports projects that put global citizenship into action across the world.
Geil-Neufeld and Schlotterbeck will team up with Cycles for Change, a St. Paul-based nonprofit, to offer learn-to-ride courses through other local organizations, which will serve as partners. “Riding a bike is about independence and personal mobility,” Geil-Neufeld says. “It gives people the ability to get to work and makes that possible in an affordable way.”
Both Geil-Neufeld and Schlotterbeck, who studied abroad in Ecuador this spring, reached out to Cycles for Change, where they had both previously volunteered. The St. Paul nonprofit (formerly known as the Sibley Bike Depot) connected the two students with each other to see what kind of collaboration might develop.
They considered what they could do to support programs Cycles for Change already has in place. Because the organization maintains a bike library for low-income adults, Schlotterbeck and Geil-Neufeld decided to use that resource by focusing their Live It project on two groups traditionally left out of cycling programs: women and immigrants.
Their goal is to recruit up to 65 participants for the learn-to-ride programs, which will be held around the Twin Cities at each partnering nonprofit’s site. Their plan also includes an open session for Twin Cities residents. They’ll teach participants how to ride, how to navigate traffic, and how to be safe and smart on their bicycles. The courses will include three group sessions plus an individual follow-up session with each class participant to answer questions for specific situations.
“There’s a great need for this,” Geil-Neufeld says. “The bike library is a great program already, and adding this learn-to-ride component will help it do even more.”