Charley Young is a high school senior at St. Andrews in Potomac. Let that sink in a second. Class of 2021. Homecoming, prom, college visits, robotic competitions, athletic scholarships, your own parking space at school. Going out for burgers, hanging with friends at the mall, watching the newest blockbuster in a theater, your first taste of independence... Senior Class rites of passage.
You finally got your license, you even have a car... What's next? Where to? Well it's 2020, the year of the pandemic...the living room? Your bedroom? The back yard? Yeah, you went a whole lot of nowhere a good part of the year. Fortunately for Charley he was one of the lucky ones, his school offered hybrid classes during the fall semester, but it's no substitute for a regular school year. Senior year is something you look forward to your whole life, you've watched upperclassmen enjoy their last year, you make your own plans, it's finally your turn to don the oversized school mascot uniform and prance around the sidelines, but before you even complete your junior year, coronavirus throws up a roadblock.
Charley has been volunteering with Bikes for the World for several years now. He's been working to complete his required service hours. St. Andrews requires each student to graduate with 120 hours of community service. This includes an intensive program during your senior year where you spend the last few weeks of school in service. Charley is still completing his undergrad hours.
Actually he just wrapped up his final hours for his junior year. For many students in Montgomery County, whether public or private school, student service hours are a requirement for graduation. And starting in 2020 and stretching into 2021...those hours have been hard to come by. Last spring when all of us were quarantined at home, many non profits were at a standstill. There were few hours to be had and those few were snatched up fast.
By summer 2020 we were all going stir crazy. We needed a change of scenery. New people to talk to who weren't sitting across from us at the dinner table. Even before we opened our warehouse up to volunteers again, our regular volunteers were emailing us...when can we come back?? With less work and limited time slots available, our volunteer opportunities filled up quickly. We were no longer able to offer the hundreds of hours to students we were accustomed to.
Charley earned one of those coveted spots by being flexible, reliable, and really good at the work. Hour by hour he plowed through our pile of bikes and slowly earned the hours he needed to fulfill the school's requirements. At least for his underclassman hours. But let's not gloss over the impact he had on our program either.
During the past month we brought in about 1,000 bikes that needed compacted before we could load them in containers and ship them off to our partners. In just the last two weeks we loaded our first two containers of 2021 and we did indeed surpass 1,000 bikes donated. They are now on their way to El Salvador and Costa Rica. All the bikes in both containers were prepped by just three individuals, Ron, Yvette and Charley. And Charley got stuck with the bulk of the children's bikes. He's the tallest of the three but he also (un)fortunately(?) has the youngest back and knees!
Each one of our volunteers over the past year has been an important cog that helped keep our bikes moving. We went from hundreds of volunteers annually to just under a dozen. We are extremely grateful to the commitment of all of them, especially Charley who gave up many weekends to ensure we were ready for the next shipment. All the best for your spring semester! Check this out, we finally emptied our bike room! Now who's going to help us fill it back up?