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Teen told he would fail finds new cycle in life

Bikes wanted

Stepping up: Michael Brown, Darhyle Darcy, Jessy Darcy, Dylan Dunne, Daniel Byrne and Kayliem Reardon are fixing up bikes in a new school program, pictured with their mentors and school staff.

POLISHING up a run-down bike has given Inala student Dylan Dunne a new reason to stay in school.

Five months ago, the 15-year-old could not be found inside a classroom.

He eventually ended up at the Inala Flexible Learning Centre, a secondary school operated by Edmund Rice Education Australia.

The school offers flexible learning options to young people who are disenfranchised and or marginalised, offering a new engaging education model.

Told he could never succeed in life, Dylan applied to be in a program with his school and community youth outreach Traction, which runs term-long workshops on re-purposing bicycles and small engines for young people.

“I’ve been told by a lot of people that I can’t do things because I’m not smart enough and I just want to show them that I am, and that I can be successful,” Dylan said. 

Dylan has already embraced two six-hour days fixing up old bikes inside a Traction workshop at Pro Honda Moorooka with no plans to quit school again.

Community members have donated bicycles, lawn mowers and small motorbikes to help the young boys’ studies. 

“Now I’ve got something to look forward to in the future,” he said. 

“So I’m staying in school and just trying my hardest.” 

Dylan has attended every day since starting at the FLC.

He is one of six students enrolled in the program this year, all young men with a passion to prove failure is not their only option. 

They even impressed their head of campus, Nigal De Maria, after deciding to work on their bicycles through morning tea.

Mr De Maria said the bicycle workshop program would teach the young men technical skills but also important personal development.

The students will eventually work on beat-up lawn mowers and offer them as a service to aged care facilities and the elderly. 

Mr De Maria said the Flexible Learning Centre modelled its education around four touchstones, one being “gospel spirituality” which emulates the “Jesus story in the way it was building up the strengths of people and giving people agency”.

“Yes some of these families have tricky things they face on a day to day basis,” Mr De Maria said.  

“In saying that, we are in a sense called to work with these young people, we choose to work with these young people and families and it’s a privilege because they bring us into their lives, they share their stories with us, they cry with us, they celebrate with us, so through the work that we do we’re privileged to have such an accessible connection to their lives and follow on their story.”

Traction founder Sandy Murdoch said the organisation’s programs supported students through mentors and practical learning environments.

“The bike projects are fantastic because our participants take an old, rusty, donated bike and they transform it into something shiny and new and in a way that’s a metaphor for what we’re trying to take them through,” he said.

“We’re about applying some of that newfound confidence back in the school environment where attendance often lifts, and so does concentration, the social skills, they’re the sorts of outcomes we’re looking for.”

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By Emilie Ng

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