Earn A Bike Program

The foundation of Blackstone Bicycle Works youth education work is the Earn-a-Bike Program, which allows kids to participate in an active business while earning their way to a bicycle. Starting with flat repair and working up, Woodlawn children, aged 8-18, learn not only how to fix and maintain their own modes of transportation, but how to conduct themselves in a busy bike shop setting. Once a child accumulates 25 hours in the shop, they can pick a bike from our refurbished selection, along with a new helmet and lock. Since 1994, the Earn-a-Bike Program has helped hundreds of Woodlawn children gain bicycle-mobility, practical skills, and self esteem.

In 2011, Blackstone Bicycle Works implemented an apron system whereby participants 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. Youths are able to visualize their advancement through the program (from “Rookie” to “Master”), and we are more easily able to direct customers to youths who have gained the requisite skills to assist them. Moreover, those who have achieved purple and black aprons are selected for promotions, such as paid internships and paid externship positions.

The Earn-a-Bike Program is open to all children age 8-18, free of charge.

Registration forms are available in the shop.

Mentoring, Internships, Externships and More

We are also considering the wider context of how to prepare our youth participants for the world beyond. To that end, we have developed paid internships for black apron apprentices, a college and career readiness track and externships at neighboring bike businesses and organizations. There is also a Blackstone Youth Racing Club that competes at cyclo-cross, and Blackstone Bikes is a DFSS summer meals site.

Maalik Gardner, bicycle mechanic.
Video by Elyse Blennerhassett


Blackstone Bikes College And Career Prep Program

As a large number of our kids are reaching high school and are starting to think about their futures, Blackstone Bicycle Works launched a new set of initiatives aimed at supporting our youth through this exciting – though at times daunting – process. As an organization, Experimental Station is dedicated to ensuring that Blackstone grows with our youth, and this now means providing college and vocational guidance. With the generous support of Greer Foundation, Blackstone has been able to add college counseling and career exploration to its list of services.

Since 2013, we have been able to enroll nine of our seniors in a Kaplan ACT prep course downtown, as well as hire a part-time college counselor at the shop. Our college counselor provides group and one-on-one college advising throughout the school year.

In an effort to broaden our kids’ awareness of what types of careers and opportunities are tied into cycling on a larger scale, as of 2014 Blackstone began to team up with various Chicago-based organizations, businesses, and retailers to showcase various career paths within the cycling industry. In an effort to appeal to as many of our youth as possible, we aim to expose them to the many different avenues in which they can ‘work on bikes’ in a professional setting: construction and engineering, cycling advocacy, creative and design work, as well as more general business opportunities.

If you work in the cycling industry and would like to show a group of Blackstone youths what you do professionally, please let us know! We are always looking for new businesses partners!

Blackstone Youth Racing Club

The Blackstone Youth Racing Club’s aim is to make cyclocross bike racing an accessible option to the juniors of Blackstone Bicycle Works. The club’s primary focus is to provide training and racing support to youth, ages 10-18. Blackstone Youth Racing has three primary goals: practicing teamwork and good sportsmanship; promoting fitness and healthy lifestyle habits; and HAVING FUN! Our club is unique in the sport of cycling because it provides the opportunity for an underrepresented population in the cycling community to participate and become valued members of that community. Blackstone Youth Racing offers its members the structure required to excel on their bikes, gain self-esteem and awareness, and participate in a sport that they otherwise would not have the resources to pursue individually.

Club members must be between the ages of 10-18, a purple or black apron, and an active participant in good standing – grades must be A/B/Cs, and without disciplinary problems at school, home, or in the shop – of Blackstone Bicycle Works. Open to both boys and girls.