Community leaders are hoping students can pedal their way to better school attendance.
In an effort to promote going to school, District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis has launched a new program in partnership with Reddick Brown Ford and Walmart.
Every student at West Elementary who had perfect attendance last school year was given a free bike. The distribution was Thursday morning at the school gym.
Nathaniel Margeson and Marylou Margeson, a brother and sister, were two of the 22 recipients. Marylou was quick to hop on her bike and give it a try by riding around the gym. Nathaniel did what brothers do.
“He’s already trying to wreck me,” said Marylou as Nathaniel came charging from behind.
Reddick Brown Ford owner Greg Brown said he’s happy to do his part to convey the importance of attending school.
“Some of these kids just need a little encouragement,” said Brown. “And some of them could use a bike.”
Zavogiannis told the story of one of the first students to pick up a bike on Thursday.
“He said he had never had a bike in his life, but he had been practicing how to ride on a neighbor’s bike,” said Zavogiannis. “When you hear things like that, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Zavogiannis started the program two years ago in Van Buren County. A school that went from having zero students with perfect attendance before the program jumped to 20 students with perfect attendance when a free bike was on the line.
She expanded the program to Warren County for the most recently completed school year and West Elementary was selected due to its sagging attendance numbers. All students with perfect attendance received a free bike and helmet.
Walmart provided a grant to purchase many of the bikes. Rick and Leslie Hayes bought the helmets.
Zavogiannis said the COVID-19 pandemic will likely prevent her from offering the program this coming school year, but she says that won’t be the end of it.
“This is not something we’re going to abandon,” said Zavogiannis. “I don’t know what we can do this year, but I would eventually like to expand it. It would be great if we could offer this at every elementary school in the county, not just West. Think of what a difference it could make.”