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Bike mechanics in training


To say John Sarrazin loves bicycles would be an understatement.

The Poynter Middle School custodian has a full bike maintenance shop at his home, as well as a collection of 81 bicycles he’s lovingly restored. And lucky for the students at Poynter, he’s eager to share his knowledge and skills.

Students in the Poynter Bike Club, a small group that meets once a week after school, recently donated a dozen refurbished bikes to four of the school district’s elementary schools. The bikes will be given to students in need. The Hillsboro Police Department donated bike helmets to go with each bike.

Giving back to the community is just one lesson Sarrazin hopes his students learn. They also learn basic bike maintenance and repair, responsibility, organizational skills and even some engineering.

Sarrazin recalls when he first started the club, three years ago.

“I was trying to teach a student fractions, and he just wasn’t getting it,” Sarrazin explained.

He brought in an old bike for the student to take apart and kept handing him tools that were the wrong size.

“I kept asking him, ‘What do you need? How much bigger does it need to be?’ ” Sarrazin said.

Eventually, the student came to understand how fractions work by using the tools.

“So far, it’s really been a good program,” Sarrazin said. “I think I’m reaching them. I think they’re becoming better individuals.”

Sarrazin donates his time to run the bike club, which also meets once a week throughout the summer. He depends on donations from individuals and organizations and in that regard, the community has really stepped up, he said.

Partnership with police

The Hillsboro Police Department has been a strong supporter of the club. School resource officer Emory Souza, who works at both Poynter and at Liberty High School, said the department donates unclaimed bikes to Sarrazin’s program.

Souza said it benefits both the club and the department. Unclaimed bikes used to pile up at the police department and take up space. By donating them to the Poynter Bike Club, they get fixed and used rather than becoming garbage.

In addition, every bike that’s fixed and given out is accompanied by a helmet, courtesy of the department.

“The whole idea is to fix them and get them out of here,” Sarrazin said.

Poynter’s bike shop has expanded with the club. Sarrazin and the students started by working on one bike stand and a few tools in a 10-by-10 room. Now they have a whole classroom, several bike stands and plenty of tools.

The students in the program are each given bike to fix and keep — or in Sarrazin’s words, “the students earn their bike.”

The rules in the bike club are simple and clear. Everyone is treated with respect. Everyone works hard, cleans up after themselves, and everyone is dedicated to the task at hand.

Earlier this year, members of the club made a “mop-ed” that was donated to the Hillsboro Schools Foundation auction. Sarrazin has plans to do it again next year. They’ll model a 1948 bike frame into a 1917 Harley Davidson, he said.

“I’m old school,” Sarrazin said, admitting to his preference for old bicycles (his collection consists mostly of pre-1965 models).

“And he’s really good at it,” seventh-grader Miguel Garcia agreed.