CYCLE Kids and Navajo Nation Grow Together
In 2017, the first CYCLE Kids Program was opened at the Shonto Preparatory School in Shonto, Arizona. Since then, CYCLE Kids has launched two additional programs in the Navajo Nation. The Red Mesa Elementary School and the T’iis Nazbas Community School are also teaching the CYCLE Kids curriculum to their 4th and 5th grade students.
Navajo Nation has 350,000 residents spanning 27,000 miles, facing some of the greatest health disparities in the United States; 80,000 Navajo live with diabetes, 75,000 are prediabetic, and 32% are considered obese. Several Navajo initiatives address these health issues: the Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment Project, Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools, the Harvard Food Law and Policy toolkit for the Navajo, a special tax on junk food and soda, and now the CYCLE Kids program.
The Navajo have identified the need for school-based intervention programs supporting comprehensive nutrition education and physical activity, and have recognized the CYCLE Kids program as being able to provide this for their children. They are thrilled that three of their elementary schools have CYCLE Kids programs and would like to expand this to all schools on the reservation.
The CYCLE Kids curriculum not only addresses the physical health of students, but emotional and social health as well. With unemployment and poverty levels over 40%, the children in the Navajo community often face emotional issues that stem from social isolation, low self-confidence, and weak support systems.
Programs like CYCLE Kids that build self-esteem and give children access to mentors can strengthen emotional wellbeing and support choices to change the health outcomes of Navajo children. The CYCLE Kids program is teaching children in these communities how to ride a bike and eat well, motivating them to thrive academically and socially. The program gives them confidence, feelings of success, improved self-esteem, and provides an opportunity for hope towards a brighter more positive future.
At the Shonto Preparatory School, the first Navajo Nation school to implement the CYCLE Kids program, many children were exposed to biking for the first time. Teachers, parents, and community members witnessed them fall in love with riding a bike. This has lead to more children participating in an after school bike club and a proposal to start an official high school cycling team. As a student incentive, children are taken to ride on a community biking-track if certain milestones are met. There are even higher rates of involvement in community bike programs, such as the annual Tour de Res bike ride and the annual week long summer bike and camping trip to the Grand Canyon.
NavajoYES, a Navajo community organization providing outdoor events for children, are trained to assist Physical Education teachers in teaching the CYCLE Kids program. NavajoYES has seen increased participation in their events as a result of the CYCLE Kids programming. Most recently, they had record-high participation in their annual Paradise Loop bike ride, thanks to additional CYCLE Kids participants and their families.
We are thrilled to continue working alongside Navajo Nation to strengthen the health and wellness of their children, schools, and communities through learning how to ride a bike and eat well. The benefits seen from the CYCLE Kids program have inspired leaders of the Navajo Nation to request CYCLE Kids programs for more schools.
Thank you to the support of the family foundations whose generosity has made these programs possible.