Richmond Cycling Corps
High Five RVA caught up with RCC's Director of Development Matt Crane and here's what he had to say about RCC. (Full disclosure, I, Amy D. McCracken, am and have been a huge fan of RCC for a couple of years and am currently lucky enough to serve on their board of directors. I thought I already knew the answers to these questions, but, once again, Matt and RCC have taught me new things about just how incredible this team is. It's been a very busy few days at RCC with the announcement that Craig is one of CNN's Top Ten Heroes, so big thanks to Matt for taking the time to play along with this High Five!)
H5RVA: Richmond Cycling Corps is the first and only inner city mountain bike team, but is this a cycling program? It seems like you might be sneaking in a few million other lessons in your work with the youth. Is that true?
Matt Crane: I'm afraid you have caught us red-handed there. We are not, at the end of the day, a cycling program. Well ok, we kinda are, but really, we're an outreach program. In the hierarchy of severe need faced by youth living in public housing, “riding bikes in the woods” is not very close to the top of the list. To that end, the part where we ride bikes is really the beginning. It's the hook, the way in. From there, we connect our youth to those things that they really need, those things that sit at the top of that list of needs: role models. Parental figures. Unwavering support. Accountability. Employment. Behavioral re-engineering. Trauma-informed tough love and professional counseling. The list goes on, but the point is that we are applying our resources as people and as an organization to get young people out of poverty. Period. But sure, we ride bikes too. Oh yeah, we have won two state titles and have been ranked for two season as the #3 team (out of 14) in the state of Virginia. All kids from public housing. Do with that what you will!
H5RVA: Richmond Cycling Corps motto is Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop. Did you have any idea, in the beginning, just what a pertinent battle cry that is when trying to overcome obstacle after obstacle in breaking the cycle of poverty?
Matt Crane: No. We went into this thing thinking that bikes would fix a lot of problems. And in a way, there's truth in that. No one rides a bike for you, it's all your own effort to get the results. There's inherent character development in a sport that requires commitment to physical suffering. However, we learned very quickly, upon setting up this cycling program, that the bike was not going to be enough, that these youth needed a lot of support and services. So “Can't Stop Won't Stop” may have at one point been applicable to not giving up during a session of hill repeats, but now its all about something much bigger than that: never giving up in our quest to empower young people to break free from the cycle of poverty.
H5RVA: What does it mean to the kids to be recognized on a national level for their roles in making RCC what it is?
Matt Crane: It's all about awareness. We don't want these kids to be forgotten. It's not just that the mechanisms for advancement in society have shifted all but out of their reach, it's that their lack of opportunities seems to be ignored or forgotten. We don't want the story of youth from public housing to be ignored. It's happening in Richmond, its happening throughout the country; young people are born to circumstances that don't allow them to embrace the full extent of their citizenship. We shouldn't ignore this fact. Young people in our communities are trapped in cycles of poverty, and we want that story being told so that we remember that they need a lot more than new playgrounds and school buildings. We as a society should not get off the hook so easily. We need to remember poverty, look at it deeply, and do some serious work to prevent it from perpetuating itself further.
H5RVA: How can the community help?
Matt Crane: Vote for us! http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/vote/ Why? Because that $100,000, if we win it, will be brought home to Richmond and used to directly make the lives of young people here better.
Beyond that? Financially support non-profits working to address the ills of poverty. Not just us, but any group you have examined and deem to be truly addressing the core issues. Money is power for those organizations, and that power is power for changing lives.
H5RVA: What are you going to do with this High Five?
Matt Crane: Use it as a loofah!