This story appears in Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South. Get the book here.
The elementary school was on the periphery of our coverage area, and I rarely wrote about it. Nothing much happened there.
The extent of my coverage of this school for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders was its need for a standalone cafeteria. The school was built for about three hundred students, but enrollment had swelled to more than double that. To accommodate all the students, lunchtime began at ten o’clock in the morning.
In the spring of 2014, I found out about an event the school was hosting, too cool to pass up. There was a BMX stunt team coming, and it sounded awesome. I made it a point to go.
I had ridden a white Haro BMX bike when I was a teenager, jumping it off concrete sewer tops and rotting landscape timbers, speeding down hills. I stood on the back silver pegs and popped wheelies. It was my favorite bike of all-time.
There were three professional BMX riders at the school when I arrived. They had set up a five-foot box jump and three-foot spine ramp in a back recess area, where short basketball goals stood in the corners.
The students came outside, every one of them wide-eyed and grinning. They watched one of the riders bunny-hop his colleagues and three school teachers. They saw their physical education teacher sit in a folding chair atop the box jump and have a rider fly over him. The riders performed backflips, tailwhips, X-ups, turndowns, bar spins and more.
Their most impressive trick, however, was captivating the students’ attention, not with high-flying techniques, but with pointed advice. They instructed the students to find things they loved to do and were passionate about, to stay focused on those things, and avoid negative influences. One of the riders said that was the real reason for their visit. A school counselor told me that exciting events such as this would inspire students to chase their own dreams.
I have never seen a group of elementary students so attentive. For that story, I researched the BMX stunt team’s website. I read the biographies of the riders. I was drawn, in particular, to the oldest rider’s biography.
Under “Influences,” he wrote: “People who follow their passion.”
He conveyed that message beautifully to those students. It was his best trick of the day.