SULPHUR SPRINGS — Forty kindergartners went home from a recent Bike Fest with bicycles, helmets and bike lights — all earned.
Among them was Jeremiah Couch, 6, who got a bright blue bike at the May 31 event at the George Bartholomew Community Center.
“I like how you get to ride it,” Couch said.
The bicycles were donated by God’s Pedal Power, an all-volunteer nonprofit group operating from University Baptist Church, which provides refurbished bicycles to those in need. Before receiving their bikes, the excited children had a safety lesson, as did their parents.
But long before they mounted up, the Sulphur Springs Elementary students learned reading skills to help them succeed in school, having just completed eight months of afterschool tutoring in the Parents & Children Advance Together Family Literacy program, offered weekdays at the city-operated community center.
The program uses volunteers from Hillsborough Community College, University of Tampa and the University of South Florida as tutors, funded by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.
The children had been identified as scoring low on the kindergarten readiness test and were referred by their teachers to the free program, said Christene Worley, the program’s executive director.
Pre-tutoring and post-program standardized tests show that 87 percent of those participating had increased their scores, Worley said.
The Children’s Board has identified Sulphur Springs as an area in need of place-based initiatives, said Ann Doyle of Devereux Kids, a nonprofit behavorial health care services provider that oversees several programs for families in the community.
The City of Tampa also has invested heavily in the low-income, high-transient area through improved housing and recreational opportunities.
“People are tending to stay — there are so many agencies helping out,” Worley said. “It is different than when I started here 13 years ago.”
In addition, 22 fifth-graders received bicycles for successfully completing Brains for Basketball, a program offered at the center to advance their math skills. This was the second year for the Bike Fest and using the bicycles as rewards.
“I did it last year and I hope to do it every year,” Worley said.