As a young person, it can be challenging to get adults to take you seriously, especially in a retail setting. But Cycles for Change Youth Apprentice Deqo Mohamed is changing that.
Deqo (she/her) will begin her third summer as an apprentice at Cycles for Change (C4C) this summer and is a junior at Metro Schools College Prep. During her final year of high school next year, she’ll be participating in Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and hopes to learn more about photography.
“I live in an apartment on the 11th floor that looks out toward the west,” Deqo explains, “and the sunsets look awesome, so I always take photos. My mom noticed I was obsessed. If I’m doing something else, I will just stop to stare at the sunset. I like the winter sunset, especially when its snowing and the whole sky is beautiful colors and the ground is white. It’s just beautiful.”
During her apprenticeship at C4C, Deqo is also finding beauty in bicycles.
“I wasn’t into bikes before,” she says. “I used to have a bike when I was younger and I stopped riding it. Then I came to C4C through Step Up and the bikes were so different. I didn’t know even half of these bikes existed. It’s like another world. I feel like I’m into bikes now and it’s an easier way to exercise. Some of my friends didn’t know how to ride but I helped teach them.”
Throughout the Youth Apprenticeship program, young people learn bike mechanics, community-building skills, and professional workplace skills. What’s unique about the program is how youth develop as leaders within the bicycle community.
“I feel like if I see a mountain bike, all I can think about is summertime,” says Deqo, “and if I see a fat tire bike, I think of winter. So all the bikes have little meanings to me. The thin tires are summer and playing and fun. The winter are fat tires. There are some different bikes that I’ve learned about and not all bikes are the same.”
Deqo helps out in both the retail and Open Shop sides of the bike shop. She is grateful for the guidance and mentorship of her coworkers in the shop, and the advice they have given her along the way.
“I like a positive environment and they (my coworkers) are not silent people,” Deqo said. “They are open and open-minded and not judgmental. It makes for a good learning environment.”
But sometimes it can be hard for a young person to work in a space that has mostly adult patrons.
“Sometimes I feel like the customers want an older person to talk to them. I try my best to talk to them, but sometimes I just ask someone else to help.”
The best advice Deqo received came from Norman Whitfield, Retail Sales Associate, who encouraged her to continue to engage with customers on the retail floor.
“Norman said ‘oh, you can help this customer,’ and I said ‘no, I’m not ready,’” Deqo recalls. “The customer liked one bike, and I was looking for a size for them and found it, and it was the right size, it fit them. I told them they could take it for a test ride. When they came back they were so happy. And I was like ‘oh my gosh, is this official, am I selling my first bike?’ I couldn’t believe it– they actually liked the bike, they didn’t want a different bike or a different person helping them. They knew what they wanted and they wanted this bike. After I sold it I ran over and took a picture of it. Everyone at C4C was happy too, Norman especially.”
Deqo’s takeaway is that youth have many of the same abilities as adults in the workplace, and that they are constantly learning.
“I don’t really talk to strangers; I always keep my distance,” Deqo says. “But not all strangers are bad. I’ve talked to some cool people here and have learned how to communicate with people who aren’t the same as me. Not all people are judgmental.
“The community should know that our youth apprentices know what they are talking about. Younger staff know stuff too, not just adults.”
For a downloadable PDF of Deqo’s Story, click here.