PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Motorists passing by the Blue Ridge School District campus, or parents lining up to pick up students at the end of a busy school day are often surprised to see a line of fluorescent green helmeted students peddling mountain bikes around the schoolyard, shouting encouraging words to each other and enthusiastically racing towards the bike compounds. Parents and passers-by might be wondering how bicycling fits into a school curriculum and how Blue Ridge Junior High School obtained a fleet of brand new Specialized mountain bikes.

Blue Ridge Junior High was fortunate to be one of 37 schools across the US to be selected for The Riding for Focus Grant in the spring of 2018. The Riding For Focus program is a collaborative effort between The Specialized Foundation, Cycle Mania and BRUSD. The Specialized Foundation provided 45 Specialized-brand mountain bikes, helmets and gear, a fully-certified physical education curriculum, and in-person training. Cycle Mania, the area’s local bike shop, provided the manpower and expertise to assemble the bikes, as well as ongoing maintenance. The Blue Ridge School District provided the bicycle storage facilities, the faculty and the class time to run the program.

The sight of bike riding students might bring back some nostalgic memories of cool fall mornings biking to school and some thoughts into the contrast of the line of cars bringing/picking up children from school. Multiple studies have shown that the very act of riding a bike to school helps students focus on their schoolwork during the day by preparing both the mind and body through exercise and focusing on a task. Independent bike riding also builds self-confidence, responsibility and self-esteem, as well as providing time for students to collaborate and enjoy friendships.

The Riding For Focus is a program based off of numerous national and international studies which link exercise with emotional, social, intellectual and physical health. Bicycle riding in particular involves unique neural pathways requiring mental focus to accomplish the task effectively. Riding For focus entails three main goals: 1) teach students correct bicycle handling and safety; 2) provide an opportunity for students to focus on a prolonged task, an exercise that has proven particularly effective in reducing symptoms in students with ADHD; 3) provide a non-competitive team atmosphere, which builds self- esteem and confidence.

October is ADHD Awareness Month and BRJHS, along with the Specialized Foundation, is doing its small part in trying to alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD through cycling. The originator of The Riding For Focus Program and Specialized Bicycle Company Founder and CEO, Mike Sinyard, has dealt with ADHD his entire life and has a son also effected by ADHD. Sinyard found effective relief from his and his son’s symptoms through cycling, and became interested in the science behind the link between ADHD and cycling, thus forming the foundation of The Specialized Foundation. If you are interested in helping with the program by either donating time, equipment or tax credit dollars, contact cgodwin@brusd.org, dfleming@brusd.org or visit the BRJHS Riding For Focus webpage at http://cgodwin7.wixsite.com/brjhs/riding-for-focus

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