Blackstone Bicycle Works is a community bike shop and youth education program of the Experimental Station. The mission of Blackstone is to provide educational and vocational opportunities to youth from some of Chicago's most underserved neighborhoods. Blackstone is structured as a retail, full-service bike shop that offers an "earn and learn," hands-on bicycle mechanics curriculum to its participants. Our year-round program teaches participating youths on-the-job training in mechanics and repair, customer service and management, and peer-education. Participation in our program is voluntary, free of charge, and open to any child, age 8 to 18.
Blackstone operates on an apron system. Kids earn colored aprons indicating five achievement levels—gray, green, red, purple, and black. These aprons function much like the colored belts in martial arts, with black signifying mastery. Those kids who have achieved purple and black aprons are selected for promotions, such as paid internships and paid externship positions.
Approximately 175 youths work at Blackstone Bicycle Works each year, with over one third of our participants having been in the program for three to seven years. Our youth education and mentoring programs have deepened over time and now include an on-site study lab and homework area, a college and career prep track, externships at bicycle industry and advocacy-related businesses, and paid summer internships for select youth. Blackstone Bicycle Works is also a summer meals site. There is even a Blackstone Youth Racing Club, and our competitors show both serious hustle and good sportsmanship at cyclo-cross races across the Chicagoland area.
Youths and their guardians must complete the registration forms before participating. Stop by the shop or send us an email for more information about youth participation.