So many organizations out there are working to make people's lives better with the help of bicycles, and we like to do our part to help support and bring attention to as many of these efforts as possible. Recently, we learned about a program in New Mexico that's using bicycles to educate and empower young people while also helping them reconnect with nature and honor their cultural heritage. Everything about this program just made sense to us, but we wanted to learn more. Program Manager Marco Sandoval and Executive Assistant Sarah Dewey shared some information about Center of Southwest Culture's challenges and accomplishments, as well as their overall mission.
Stan's: Can you tell us about Center of Southwest Culture's mission in general and the specific mission of the Story Riders program?
Marco Sandoval: The Center of Southwest Culture's mission is to to develop healthy Indigenous and Mexicano / Chicano communities through economic development and cultural educational programs. Our work takes a linguistically and culturally supportive approach and is centered on cultural lifeways, traditional knowledge, and existing resources to increase overall community health.
CSC assists in developing businesses based on owned assets such as land and water, with a focus on regenerative agriculture and culturally-based outdoor tourism. We provide backyard gardening workshops incorporating traditional foods and growing methods and offer an educational cycling program to children and youth that incorporates STEAM and storytelling curriculum through a cultural lens. We also fiscally sponsor more than 50 discreet projects and organizations in New Mexico that enrich the lives of our community members.
Story Riders empowers children and youth of color to reconnect with our natural and cultural heritage, while providing practical training in bicycle safety, maintenance, and guided cycling experiences in which participants explore local stories and spaces. Each student that comes through our program receives a free refurbished bicycle, a helmet, a safety vest, a patch kit, and a water bottle.
Stan's: What are your main challenges and how can people help?
Our main challenge is securing enough funding and resources to ensure that our program flourishes. Our staff are doing an amazing job providing high quality programming to the communities we serve, however, generous financial donations would help our staff focus solely on programming and help our program expand to include more historically marginalized communities across New Mexico, specifically the 19 Indigenous Pueblos where access to cycling is extremely limited. We are also in need of bicycle-specific toolkits, bike stands, and a steady supply of bicycle consumables such as, grease, patch kits, chain lube, and tire sealant (Thank you Stan's Sealant!). We also accept bicycle and bike part donations to build refurbished bikes for kids! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to stay up-to-date on our activities.