(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Each spring, the exodus of students from campus leaves behind a trove of treasures, including hundreds of abandoned bicycles. The Center for Community Health Development at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, in conjunction with the City of Alton and 20 other partners, used these bicycles late last year for a special project.

Some cities bid on bulk bicycles to begin a “Yellow Bike,” or loaner, program. The City of Alton purchased 815 bikes from Texas A&M University after brainstorming with other partners that the bicycles could be given away in exchange for community service hours. The 20 partners each determined projects to be performed by children ages 10 to 18 to earn the required eight community service hours for obtaining one of these bicycles.

Among the partners is the Integrated Health Outreach Systems project, part of the CCHD and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. IHOS works in many South Texas colonias to improve residents’ health through various programs, and its environment task group enlisted 44 children to contribute to their community service project.

Overall, 584 “experienced” bicycles were matched with children who donated 4,672 service hours in Alton. The IHOS project donated helmets, reflective tags and reflective ankle bracelets to go with each bicycle.

Along with IHOS and the City of Alton, program partners included Alton Boys & Girls Club (TAMU Colonias Program), Alton Lions Club, Cantu Elementary School, Centro Cristiano “Vida,” El Sendero de la Cruz, El Templo Biblico, Iglesia Apostolica Fe en Cristo Jesus, Iglesia en la Roca, Iglesia Nueva Vida, Iglesia Poder del Espiritu Santo, La Union del Pueblo Entero, New Comers’ Academy, Salinas Elementary School, San Martin Catholic Church, Templo Camino de Santidad, Templo El Buen Pastor, Temple Jesus de Nazareth and Wings of Faith Church.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell