Tupelo Collision Repair Students Learn How to Give Back
Tupelo Career-Technical Center students Jacob Ashby (left) and Nina Fears pose with refurbished bicycles.
Tupelo Career-Technical Center (TCTC) collision repair students give back to their community by refurbishing old bicycles and donating them to families for Christmas.
Two years ago, TCTC collision repair teacher Derek Bradley started Sharing at Christmas, a project that gives students an opportunity to learn invaluable skills through hands-on experience while bettering their community.
The initiative begins each October with a call to the community for secondhand bicycles. TCTC teachers and staff reach out to various community groups and members to secure the approximately 50 bikes repaired and donated each year.
Even though money can be donated to help repair the bikes, Bradley said he wants his students to understand the value of volunteering their own time and effort to help their community.
“It’s not always about money,” he said. “You can still change someone’s life by donating your talents, time, or a skill set.”
After the bikes are collected, Bradley assembles a team of students to participate in restoration efforts. In the next two months, bikes that are brought in go through various restorations—some bikes need new pedals, some need air in the tires, and some only need a little oil on the chain.
“We are sure to let everyone know that the bike can be in any condition. We will take it,” Bradley said, “because if we can’t fix that bike, we might have parts we could take off that bike and use to fix another bike.”
After they’re restored, the bikes are ready to be given away to families in need. TCTC student services coordinator and Sharing at Christmas volunteer Aprillee Cardenas saw firsthand how much of an impact a bike could make on a family at Christmas.
“The families that picked up bicycles this past year were very happy and even relieved,” she said. “They expressed how excited their children were going to be when they saw the bikes for the first time. They were so appreciative of what they received. You could tell by the huge smiles on their faces.”
Sharing at Christmas is not only used to support the community, but it is also a way to teach employability skills that prepare students to enter the workforce. Bradley says skills like communication, résumé building, and problem solving learned through the collision repair class and the bike restoration program are applicable to any occupation.
“I tell my students all the time I still want them to be able to go to any job and be successful even if they never pick up a sander or spray gun again,” he said. “The soft skills that I am trying to teach them will help them in any career, whether they want to be a welder, doctor, or veterinarian.”