Redemptive Cycles internship provides hands-on experience for Birmingham high school senior

Birmingham, Alabama, Redemptive Cycles, Student Intern
Curtis Watson. Photo via Redemptive Cycles

If you’re a high school student interested in engineering, an internship where you learn bicycle mechanics is a pretty sweet gig. That’s exactly what one local senior is doing this semester. It’s all thanks to partnerships between Redemptive Cycles, Birmingham Education Foundation and G. W. Carver High School.

Birmingham, Alabama, Redemptive Cycles
From community rides known as “Tramples” to student internships, Redemptive Cycles is connected to the Birmingham community. Photo via Redemptive Cycles’ Facebook page

This is the third year Redemptive Cycles—a nonprofit bike shop that also brought us the Birmingham Color Wall mural—has participated in the internship program with Birmingham Education Foundation.

After interviewing several students for the job, Erica McGrath, a mechanic and volunteer coordinator at Redemptive Cycles, said that Curtis Watson stood out as the top candidate.

“He’s outgoing and a genuinely nice kid, and he’s really smart. He’s a good fit for our environment in general.”

McGrath
Birmingham, Alabama, Redemptive Cycles, Erica McGrath
Erica McGrath. Photo via Redemptive Cycles’ website

It also helped that Watson is super into calculus, which makes for good shop talk. (McGrath has a math degree.)

Currently, Watson is working on repairs and building bikes to get to know the basic mechanics, McGrath said. “Then we’re going to move him to our public workstation in the front, where our clients come in for basic repairs like flat changes.”

Academy-Based Learning at Carver

Watson is a student in the Academy of Engineering at G. W. Carver High School in Birmingham.

Within the academy system there, students get exposure to a range of career-oriented disciplines in their freshman year. After selecting an academy, sophomores begin work-based learning. Then comes job shadowing at local Birmingham businesses during junior year. Finally, the last step: senior year internships.

Birmingham, Alabama, Redemptive Cycles, bike gears
There are engineering lessons aplenty in the gears of a bike. Photo via Redemptive Cycles’ Instagram

“If you say, yes, this is still what I want to do, we try to get you an internship in that area,” said Angela Lake, academy coordinator at G. W. Carver High School. In that role, she builds relationships with area businesses and local colleges to ensure her students are learning what they need to be successful after graduation.

Watson’s internship at Redemptive Cycles is a prime example of how the academy model works for Carver students. Another example is the school’s recent partnership with Miles College and an HBCU initiative known as THE YARD (read more on that here).