If you’re younger than 30, you might not have had auto shop class offered as an elective in high school. These classes went to the weigh side during budget cuts along with home economics and other electives. It’s a shame since some teenagers who didn’t excel at academics felt high school offered them very little. Many would skip classes, or worse, drop out of school altogether.
Enter Project Bike Tech (PBT), a nonprofit that brings bicycle mechanic training into the mainstream high school curriculum. Founded in 2008, founder Berri Michel started a grassroots program in Santa Cruz, California, at Bicycle Trip bike shop. “We envisioned it being similar to how the auto industry spearheaded the creation of high school auto shop programs back in the 1930s,” Berri said. The end goal is to inspire future generations to be passionate as well as knowledgeable about bicycles.
Speaking of being passionate about bikes, I had the honor and pleasure of sitting down with PBT’s Executive Director, Mercedes Ross, to discuss her career path that landed her this fantastic position. Mercedes (yes, such a cool name) darn, I should have asked how her parents decided to bestow their daughter’s cool name. Not to digress.
Before talking about PBT, I asked her about recently being voted one of the top 50 Influential Businesswomen in the bike industry and her advice to women about what it takes to achieve this status. “Love what you do and do what you do best.” I’d say that’s sound advice.
PBT is currently in 10 states and 24 high schools. That number is on track to double next year. Mercedes shared with me some heartwarming PBT graduates’ success stories. Former PBT participants talked about how the program kept them in school and found successful careers post-high school, all great stuff.
I’ll let my interview with Mercedes speak for itself.
If you are interested in starting a PBT program at your local high school, reach out to the team. They will help to establish classrooms and the support to make each program successful.
Support the next generation of bike lovers and enjoy the ride.