The William Floyd Bicycle Academy, under the direction of occupational therapist Ed Diaz, has grown exponentially in just four short summers from being managed by a handful of volunteers with a small number of bicycles, to having a team of volunteers consisting of teachers, teaching assistants, high school students, community members, college students and more. In addition to assisting students with special needs and general education students, this year the program welcomed students who are medically frail or orthopedically impaired. The program is made possible due to the generosity of the William Floyd community which continues to donate bicycles and other equipment for the program.
“Learning how to ride a bike is an amazing accomplishment to every child, but that in and of itself is not the ultimate goal of the program,” said Mr. Diaz. “The ultimate goal is to give our students the opportunity to be the best that they can be both physically and emotionally so that they can leave the bike program feeling good about themselves.”
In addition to learning how to balance, pedal at appropriate and varied speeds, brake, turn and follow safety rules, they are also strengthening their ability to focus, listen, concentrate and follow directions through to completion.
“Sometimes something truly incredible happens along the way,” said Mr. Diaz. “Students who typically struggle with expressive or receptive language often begin spontaneously expressing their wants and needs.”
Mr. Diaz recounted how students begin conversations with their coaches, ask pertinent and relevant questions, and engage in meaningful conversations about their bike experience. “To every professional who works with students with special needs, this is an amazing accomplishment and one that never ceases to amaze me,” he said.
Diaz, who is quick to share credit for the success of the program, expressed his thanks to all of the volunteers who helped throughout the summer whether it was behind-the-scenes, or directly with the students.
Acknowledgments by Mr. Diaz
William Floyd employees, students, and community members came together in record numbers! We had volunteers from every building as well as the music department, psychology department, special education department and security.
I would like thank Susan Hutnick and the United Paraprofessional & Teaching Assistant Association for generously donating a tent, water coolers, water, as well as bike safety handles. Special thanks also go out to Frank Brust, our summer school security guard, who is my right hand man. During his brief absence, another amazing person, Jonah Santos from Fixed Gears Bike Shop, stepped in, going above
and beyond to ensure that the program got off to an amazing start by generously donating his time and skills to prep bicycles by tuning them up and putting on training wheels.
This year, our high school students stepped up in such a big way thanks to the coordination of Trish Nagle. We had the varsity football team, cheerleaders, Rockettes, girls’ basketball and girls’ soccer teams. In addition, we also had student intern volunteers from Stony Brook University and NYIT.
We were fortunate in having veteran general and special education teachers and teaching assistants with 20-30+ years of experience sharing their wisdom and leadership skills alongside newer teachers, and excited volunteers. I found myself extremely grateful and really dependent upon these amazing volunteers who helped me get everything ready before the actual event.
We had students from Carmella Currao’s and Brian Savage’s high school special education classes help set-up, prep, and corral the bicycles, as well as fill up our coolers with water to help ensure that our students were well hydrated. These astonishing volunteers and superior teachers and teacher assistants were essential for the success of the program. That is what makes this program so unique, highly successful, and absolutely Floyd Strong.
Click below for a video and additional photos!