Parma, Ohio – It’s a community call to action coming from a Parma area high school.
Valley Forge High School is looking for new and gently used bikes and locks so that Ukrainian students and other refugees from the region can get to school safely and receive an education as they adjust to their new life in America.
School officials say they have started the 2022-2023 school year with an influx of refugee students – nearly 120 students from around the world have arrived in Parma.
Many students from war-torn Ukraine.
Transportation is necessary because the area cut off buses for high school-age students several years ago.
Valley Forge is the only high school in the area to offer an English Language Learners (ELL) program which is critical to these new students. The journey can be difficult as long as the students are still adjusting to their new home.
“Very difficult, very displaced. I feel very sorry for these people,” said James Mica, a parent at Valley Forge High School.
As a parent at Valley Forge High School and a teacher in the Cleveland area, Mika has witnessed the pain and anguish that Ukrainian refugees have endured over the past several months.
He and other members of the Parma community are now on a mission to deliver the best – one bike at a time.
“I’m the kind of person who collects bikes. When people throw them at the curb, I fix them – so I’ll keep an eye on that kind of thing. Newer bikes are better,” said Mica.
Biking to school is the primary mode of transportation for dozens of Valley Forge High School students each day.
In fact, it is the only way many refugee students can get to and from the classroom.
“Many of these Ukrainian families have arrived here in Northeast Ohio — they don’t know the language, they don’t have a family here, they don’t drive,” said Sylvie Argyrakis, home contact coordinator at Valley Forge High School.
Valley Forge recently started a bike ride to collect as many bikes as possible to help students settle better into their new home.
The donated bikes are currently kept in high school, but once they are delivered, they are almost immediately received by students in need.
School officials say the request is clear and sometimes urgent.
Bicycles are a gateway to a new world, a new language and a new opportunity.
“When they see that bike, it’s a familiar thing; they went home with a bike, and they biked again in Ukraine,” said Joe Kochta, deputy principal at Valley Forge High School.
Many refugee students travel several miles to get there, often on foot, and sometimes by bus and transportation.
School officials say that for most students, the commute can be two to three miles up.
Valley Forge officials hope residents will lend a hand and change their lives through donations of bicycle and bicycle locks.
“For those students who literally came here months ago with what they can carry, it is very important that we provide the basic necessities,” Argyrakis said.
Valley Forge High School is currently accepting donations of bike and bike locks by appointment only – no deliveries.
If you have a new or lightly used bike, contact Sylvie Argiraki at 440-885-2372 or by email at email@example.com. You can also call Christine Kirsch at 440-885-2442.
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