Letter from the Director, March 2013

News released on: 
Mar 18th, 2013
Ashley Leary
Read about Ashley Leary's story, from participant to program director, and support pathways to leadership for more youth when you donate now!

Dear Supporter,

During Bikes Not Bombs’ most recent strategic planning retreat, one of our youth employees suggested that we change the name of our Youth Employment Program to "Pathways." His argument was that Bikes Not Bomb’s youth jobs are so much more than just jobs – they offer multiple ways to engage with and move through our programs, and they lead to so many different places, some within Bikes Not Bombs (BNB), and some beyond our walls. We are extremely proud of the fact that almost all of our youth programs staff are program alumni. This progress is directly attributed to our incredible network of donors, and we ask that you consider a donation to Bikes Not Bombs, to help us make our work using the bicycle to foster young people’s leadership possible. Donate Now.

We decided to go with the new name, which seemed even more fitting in February when Elijah Evans, a participant and employee at BNB for a decade, announced his plans to move on. His departure, however bittersweet, is an essential part of “Pathways,” because in his place BNB was able to hire another Youth Programs graduate, who has blazed her own twisting and turning path through our programs.

A sophomore at Bunker Hill Community College, Ashley Leary is 21, and first came to BNB in 2008. She’d heard about the organization from her mom and wrestling coach, and decided to attend a special movie screening at the Hub. Her involvement with BNB nearly ended before it began. The Hub was so full of people when she walked in that she turned around and left. She summoned her courage, however, and came back in, and as she puts it, “from there I was hooked.”

Ashley’s first stop on her pathway was an all-girls session of Earn-A-Bike in 2008. She built a Silver touring Miyata with blue bar tape, which she says shows that she had good taste, even as a beginner. Ashley quickly moved into a role as a youth employee during the summer of 2009, teaching summer Earn-A-Bike. She completed BNB’s Vocational Education Program, and was hired at the BNB Retail Bike shop later that year. As a Youth Program alum working at the Shop, Ashley saw her role as an important one. “I took a special interest in young people at the shop, to make sure I was there to answer questions and make them feel comfortable.”

Ashley Leary
Ashley (left) helping teach Girls In Action in 2010 and ushering in a new generation of pathway participants

In 2011 Ashley left the shop, but not the organization. With so much experience at BNB, she was an excellent candidate to join BNB's Board of Directors, although she was skeptical at first. “I thought, I’m so young, what can I contribute?” In reality, Ashley had much to offer. As a youth programs graduate and former shop staff member, Ashley brought an insider’s perspective to organizational management. And her experience on the Board served her as much as it served BNB. “It helps you understand how an organization works,” she says, “you get to think about things like, how did that bike stand get there, where do these helmets come from, or are we meeting staff needs?”

That same year, BNB’s partner in Nevis asked for a comprehensive instructor training for their Earn-A-Bike program. We needed trainers who had a passion for our mission, a firm grasp on mechanics, and stellar teaching skills; Ashley was an obvious choice. “To be at the level where I was training people, to see the work that extends beyond Jamaica Plain and to do it hands on, was surreal,” she says, “It was the moment I realized this really works.”

There’s no doubt that the day will come when Ashley, like her predecessor Elijah, will move on from Bikes Not Bombs. But that moment is part of her Pathway, and will represent an opportunity for another young person to step up. But for now, she is embracing her new role at BNB as Youth Programs Co-Director which, in some ways, represents her pathway coming full circle. She now has the opportunity to do for others what BNB did for her. “After going through the programs, I now have the chance to implement things that I thought should be there, or shape the program to make it something that I think young people should experience.” Just as Elijah was a part of Ashley’s introduction to our work, never knowing he would one day pass his torch to her, she will be instrumental in welcoming new youth to BNB, some of whom will travel prodigious pathways like hers, making lasting impact on BNB and the world in so many ways.

Ashley’s Pathway is just one of the hundreds of routes that young people take through our programs each year that lead them to higher education, better jobs, and optimistic futures. These were the lofty goals that BNB had when we ran our first Earn-A-Bike program 23 years ago, and they will continue to be the goals that push us to reach more young people, in more neighborhoods, every year. As long as we have the resources, we will continue to give youth authentic leadership opportunities at BNB. Ashley’s success, and that of the young people we have yet to meet, would not be possible without the support and involvement of so many of you. Please show your support by making a generous gift to Bikes Not Bombs today. Donate Now

For Bikes Not Bombs,

Jodi Sugerman-Brozan

P.S. We have decided to send one of our three annual funding appeals by email instead of snail mail. The money that we’ll save on printing and postage will amount to several thousand dollars, making your donations go even further to support our youth and international programs. If you have any questions, you can email BNB’s Director of Fundraising & Events, Erica Rotman, at erica@bikesnotbombs.org. THANK YOU for your generous support!!