In a three-classroom high school at PPEP Tec Charter, senior Gordon Crouch has been busy finding ways to serve the community. Last Saturday, with the assistance of his peers, Crouch organized a sign dedication ceremony and fundraiser for the future site of the Kory Laos Freestyle BMX Memorial Bike Park.
The senior project became less of a school assignment for Crouch, and more of a gift "in the memory of a good friend."
Crouch was a long-time friend of Laos, who was struck and killed by two SUVs while bike riding near the University of Arizona about three years ago. Since the incident, Crouch has been adopted into the Laos family and joined the crusade to establish the first BMX bike park in Tucson that would provide for a safe bike-riding location.
In July 2009, their work paid off when the Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to name the proposed BMX bicycle park within Flowing Wells District Park after Kory.
"It's funny," said Crouch, "everyone knows Kory's story." Kory's white "ghost" bike sits next to the busy streets of Euclid and Speedway. "He really made an impact while he was here, and the bike park will continue that."
PPEP Tec (Portable Practical Educational Preparation) High School gave Crouch the additional opportunity to assist in the building of the park and honor Kory's memory.
The alternative school specializes in individualized curriculums, as is the case for the 65 students who attend the Ina Road campus. For approximately 15 of those students, including Crouch, community service has been a large component of that curriculum.
For a community service class, Crouch and others have participated in projects ranging from organizing a Valentine's Day party for the elderly, volunteering at Pima Animal Care Center, serving lunch at a local men's shelter, and working with the Ben's Bells project in honoring random acts of kindness. For the past two months the students have been solely occupied by their senior project, which was arranging the sign dedication/ fundraiser for the Laos bike park.
"We worked broken up into groups doing different things, and at the end we merged all of our ideas and work together," said 16-year-old Tatiana Johns.
Tasks included publicizing the event through writing press releases, attending events such as Tucson High's block party, handing out flyers, and working with BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Action and Salvage), a non-profit center dedicated towards promoting education, art and safety.
Through the students' dedication and help from BICAS, Saturday's sign dedication featured numerous activities such as free food, games, a zero-gravity machine, jumping castle, live country band, donation stands, as well as bike-safety demonstrations, helmet give-aways and more. The event attracted about 350 people of all ages and raised around $500.
With the help of BICAS, the Kory Laos Memorial Bike Park is now the proud owner of an inventive sign made out of recycled bike parts.
"The county was really impressed by the sign," said teacher Jenna Simons. "It added to the credibility of the park because of the sign's quality." Simons added that Pima County is interested in making similar signs for other parks. But for now, the memorial park can be known as "the park with the great sign."
The event's success surprised the PEPP Tec students.
"It really makes you aware of how much you can really do when the community comes together to achieve one goal," said Johns. The goal is to "get kids off of the street," Crouch added.
In the end for the students of PPEP Tec High, the two months of work was really to help out a friend.
"We all feel pretty good about doing something for Kory," Kyle Hudson, another participating senior, said. Crouch added there was the "satisfaction of knowing that the work was for helping out a friend."
Over the summer, the PPEP Tec students plan to remain involved with Kory's memorial bike park by joining up with the Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona to sculpt the park, digging out jumps, filling in ramps, and work on its general layout. All youth interested in helping can contact Jenna Simons at JSimons@PPEP.org.