With unemployment and poverty levels over 40%, the children in Navajo Nation often face emotional issues that stem from social isolation, low self-confidence, and weak support systems.
With the support of the NavajoYES! youth group, our curriculum not only addresses the physical health of students, but emotional and social health as well. Giving children access to NavajoYES! mentors strengthens emotional well-being and supports choices to change health outcomes of Navajo children.
The CYCLE Kids program creates a safe space where children gain confidence, feel successful, and improve their self-esteem. It gives them an opportunity to engage with peers and mentors in an activity that gets them outside and having fun.
Since the program launched in 2017, Shonto 4th and 5th graders have been excited to call themselves “CYCLE Kids.” The excitement for biking generated by our program has encouraged more children to participate in other local cycling activities, and inspired them to create more opportunities where they can get out and ride.
Tour de Rez: Annual five-day biking and camping trip in the desert with three days in the Grand Canyon ending in Shonto, sponsored by NavajoYES!.
Paradise Loop: 22-mile annual bike ride that takes place in Shonto. Most children did at least half of the ride, and last year, one 9-year-old completed all 22 miles!
Competitive Cycling Team: Middle and high school students have come together to form a new racing team, giving students an opportunity to pursue cycling as a sport.
After-school Bike Club: More students are using the school’s 50-yard pump track. Plus, at least two afternoons each week, the principal’s administrative assistant rides with CYCLE Kids students around the neighborhood; so many children want to ride that they have to wait in line and take turns.
Multipurpose Trail: Students worked with adult mentors to build a trail close to the school for practicing mountain biking.
Enthusiasm in Red Mesa for cycling and the CYCLE Kids program has spread from the elementary school to the high school.
Bike Restoration Days: To help bring more bicycles to the community, the Red Mesa High School basketball team and their coach, Hank Charleston, restored bikes alongside top bike mechanic Manuel Chavarria.
Mentorships: Many of the basketball players have become big brothers and mentors to the CYCLE Kids students at the Red Mesa Elementary School.
Summer Training Program: Biking is a new addition to the high school program.
In T’iis Nazbas, the CYCLE Kids program has opened up mentorship opportunities. Members of the community group NavajoYES! met with CYCLE Kids students, gave them helmets, and helped them learn to ride. They also met with 3rd grade students—future “CYCLE Kids”— and gave them helmets, too.
The influence of CYCLE Kids has also been evident with the school’s staff. Many staff members have requested helmets for themselves so they can ride with the students after school—and with their children and grandchildren.