Nathan Watson is along for the ride at Learn and Earn

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Nathan Watson is along for the ride at Learn and Earn

Nathan Watson poses in front of a wall of bikes at the Learn and Earn Bike Shop in Macon.

Nathan Watson poses in front of a wall of bikes at the Learn and Earn Bike Shop in Macon.

Katie Atkinson

Nathan Watson poses in front of a wall of bikes at the Learn and Earn Bike Shop in Macon.

Katie Atkinson

Katie Atkinson

Nathan Watson poses in front of a wall of bikes at the Learn and Earn Bike Shop in Macon.

Katie Atkinson, Managing Editor

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Bicycles hang from the walls of a tiny room at Strong Tower Church and a group of young boys moves to their work stations. They pick up wrenches and wait for instruction.

These kids are part of Macon’s Learn and Earn bike program, where students are given a used bike and taught how to fix it up. After ten hours of repair work, they get to take their bike home.

“Watching them at first they don’t understand [the time commitment],” said Nathan Watson, who leads the youth program. “After a couple sessions it starts to sink in and you know they see this light at the end of this tunnel–that they’re gonna get this bike. That’s just a cool thing.”

Watson started the bike program a year ago. He keeps Learn and Earn running on bike donations from the community. Kids at Learn and Earn meet twice a week to take the bikes apart and rebuild them again.

At the end of the program, Watson signs off on their hours, and they get to pick out a free bike to bring home.

“I call it a free bike but, they’ve earned a bike. They are not just given a bike that they’ll go lose tomorrow,” Watson said. “They’ve got some sweat equity in it.  They really are earning the bikes and they know how to fix them after that too.”

The program caters to kids in the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood.  This summer, boys from The Methodist Home worked on their hours. They spent classes taking the brakes off their bikes, oiling brake cables and completing other tasks.

After this group completes their work, they will join the ranks of 18 other students who have received bikes from Learn and Earn.

Watson said he’s proud of his students.

“You know, I’ve got a picture of every one of them when they got presented their bike after ten hours and I mean they have just a huge smile on their faces,” Watson said. “It’s just fun working with these kids.”

Mercer students who are interested in volunteering with the program can reach out to Watson at Nathan@lebikeshop.com.

“I don’t even need skilled volunteers,” Watson said. “I just need people that can keep the kids at the bike so they’re not running around picking on their other friends.”

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