Featured Volunteer: J Long
When the Stone Ridge Social Action crew came back this school year a few things had changed. The most noteworthy was the team expanded. Rewind the dozen years when the partnership began and we had just Ken Woodard and two students working in a cramped barn in King Farm. Over the years we slowly added a couple girls here and there. And as we expanded and matured, so did our Social Action partnership. The 2022-23 school year included 17 volunteers, including not one, not two, but THREE faculty members!
And now that we had a bigger group, we welcomed the addition of a third mentor, J Long. And we didn't realize it at first, but she's one of the things that 'stayed the same'. Honestly, they sort of sneaked her in on us. Maybe it was the mask, her baggy sweats, or the youthful smile you can read in her eyes (despite the mask!) - we just wondered who this new 'bossy' student was. She wasn't so much bossy, it was more she really took charge of the group from the moment they stepped into the shop. It was odd how much J seemed to know about our mission and bikes and what we expected in the warehouse. Thinking back, the faded BfW shirt should have clued us in.
Turns out J, once a student, had returned to Stone Ridge to teach Physics after graduating college in 2020. J was our very first Gator Graduate to return to our program, this time as a teacher/mentor! How totally cool is that?? And what a great mentor for Stone Ridge. J (Julianna) worked with us in 2014-16. She worked side by side with Taylor when he was our Ops Manager.
We asked her why she chose Bikes for the World when she was a Junior and she gave a quick reply, "tool work". J went on to UMD to study Electrical Engineering, so she definitely likes working with her hands, solving problems, and applying physics to every day problems, something she is quick to share with her students. Leverage and torque are terms you may hear when passing by her bench.
She reports that she had a lot of fun teaching this year and has already signed to return next year (Yea, lucky us!) But teaching was not something that was on the horizon when she started college in 2016. As if it wasn't a big enough change to go from a small all girls Catholic school to the University of Maryland, she also had to compete with male egos in her engineering classes, something she wasn't used to at Stone Ridge.
Then in her senior year of college, covid emerged. Classes went online and the pomp and circumstance of graduation fizzled. She ended up back at home a little uncertain about what her future might look like. But as some doors closed, others opened, and the opportunity to rejoin her high school alma mater as a Physics teacher piqued her interest. But we know she had her sights on returning to Bikes for the World when it was all said and done.
It's been great having her back. For her it's all about the tools, and the great impact she can have through this work. She doesn't really bike, but she knows her way around a tool bench. And she knows the benefits the girls will have if they can problem solve on their own, work together well as a team, and be confident around tools and repairs. Having her in the warehouse has allowed us to take the even larger Stone Ridge crew and divide them up into several groups to accomplish more tasks on the days they work with us. J helps keep them on task, and increases our efficiency which translates into a greater impact we have on our beneficiaries around the world.