Fourteen-year-old Jaquan Meadows is really good at doing wheelies, and he enjoys riding his bike with friends for hours and hours every day all summer long. He also knows a lot about mechanics and does his own bike repairs. So it’s not surprising that he signed up for the Urban Bike Project’s Build a Bike camp last summer.
“If something goes wrong with my bike, I like to fix it myself. I do a lot of work with bikes,” said Jaquan.
The downtown Wilmington nonprofit restores old and broken bikes and resells them for next to nothing. They put campers to work teaching them about bike safety and mechanics and take them out for spins on the bikes they help fix. At the camp’s conclusion, junior campers get to keep the bikes they make.
Jaquan, a rising high school freshman, was asked to join the camp’s staff this summer as a junior counselor. “Jaquan is an exceptional young man, who right away impressed us with his leadership and communication skills and his enthusiasm to work with younger kids,” said Urban Bike Project Executive Director Laura Wilburn. “And of course, he can do some crazy things on a bike, and that’s pretty cool to the younger campers.”
At the Urban Bike Project’s Advanced Summer Camp last week, Jaquan and six other middle and high schoolers worked on a unique service project that involved welding, fabricating and installing new bike racks for two locations in Wilmington: the Riverwalk mini golf course and outside Dead Presidents restaurant on Union Street.
The donated bike racks will further the Urban Bike Project’s mission of making bike riding an easier mode of transportation around Wilmington.
Jaquan says the new bike racks are more than utilitarian. “They’re like a monument or a piece of sculpture, and I’m proud they will always be there. I hope the racks also encourage more people to ride bikes,” he said.
Seven campers rode their bikes every day to the Advanced camp at Urban Bike Project: Morgan Weintel (’22 Brandywine HS), Kayleigh Head (‘22 Brandywine HS) Wyatt Flicker ‘22 Salesianum, Sean McKenna (a rising 8thgrader at Springer Middle), Ja’vier Wright (’21 Brandywine HS), Ramir Bass (a rising 6thgrader at Skyline Middle) and Jaquan Meadows (‘22 McKean).
The beginning of the week was spent assembling and painting the bike racks. On installation days, they took time out for canoeing on the Christina River at the Riverfront, enjoying ice cream cones, and pedaling in the new bike lanes on Union Street. On the last two days of camp, the group took an overnight trip to the Lums Pond State Park.
Of course, they rode their bikes the entire way there.
This was Kayleigh Head’s third summer doing the Urban Bike Project summer camp. “I love bike riding. It’s a lot of fun, great exercise, and I like to be outdoors. And I’m now friends with the kids here at camp.”
Kayleigh said that the students had to put their math skills to the test to make sure there was enough space for each of five bikes to fit on each rack and to make sure the racks would fit at the planned locations.
“Everybody continued equally, and everybody did an amazing job with this project,” said Jaquan, who went out of his way to thank the Challenge Program, a job-training program for young adults in Wilmington, for donating materials and funds toward the project.