Naperville Central High School students are putting their money where their teachers' feet are this week while participating in a lesson that includes academics, athletics and giving.
Marc O'Shea, instructional coordinator for academic support, and physical education teacher Neil Duncan will be riding hundreds of miles on stationary bikes in the lobby of the school for each dollar raised by students to assist World Bicycle Relief's efforts in Zambia, Africa.
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Within hours of starting their ride Friday morning, donations topped $700 and are expected to reach $1,000 in the coming days.
Students in the Academic Reading and Learning Readiness Physical Education (LRPE) programs came up with the fundraising plan to get their teachers on bikes.
O'Shea said students in the LRPE program, which pairs physical exercise with academic studies, were riding one-mile time trials in P.E. and talking about cycling and the role of the bicycle in America in the early 1900s.
Meanwhile, the academic reading students have been studying the life and work of Marshall "Major" Taylor, a young African-American bicyclist who overcame the bitter racism of his day to become a world champion athlete.
"It was an eye-opener to the kids as the discussion turned to the current day and the fact that a bicycle is still a valuable tool in the world," O'Shea said. "The bicycle is a tool when put in the hands of the kids, especially in Zambia where having a bicycle changes their lives in terms of getting them to school, to the doctor and everything."
As the bicycle's status as a prized possession began to sink in with students, O'Shea said, it wasn't long before they decided to do something.
"(Duncan) and I told the kids that if they raised the money, we would ride a mile for every dollar, but we wouldn't promote it or do any of the other work," O'Shea said Friday morning. "That was all it took. Within a short time, we had $400, and just a sort time after starting, we're already up to $712."
Naperville North students also are collecting money for the teachers' efforts but aren't donating on a per-mile pledge.
Every $134 raised equals one bicycle sent to Zambia, and O'Shea said he's hoping the combined efforts will allow them to send between 10 and 15 bikes.
As a reward for the students, everyone who participated will be invited to a special assembly Wednesday during which they will be visited by founders of World Bicycle Relief and, if technology permits, participate in an online video chat with a World Bicycle Relief athlete currently riding through Africa in the Tour d' Afrique during a stop in Tanzania.
Throughout the ride, guest riders will jump in to give O'Shea and Duncan the occasional rest. Junior Zoe Ebling was one of the first students to volunteer to ride for about 45 minutes during her free period Friday.
"I missed my spin class this morning that I normally attend before class, so this way I'm still able to get it in," she said. "But I also think it's awesome that this idea came from our students and that Central is giving students a say in the causes we want to support."
Donations can be dropped in the two buckets next to the two stationary bikes posted in the main lobby at Naperville Central through March 14.