An Off-Road Journey Helps Students Get Back On Track

Segment Aired February 14, 2017 on WGBH

For Cris Rothfuss, the road less travelled is always her first choice.  Once a competitive off-road cyclist, she’s training for a two-wheeled challenge of her own design.  This summer, she’ll start in Seattle and bike to Boston.  It’s a distance of 3,000 miles.  Unless you take Rothfuss’ route.  She’s adding an extra 2000 miles.

“Five thousand miles over the course of three months,” explained Rothfuss, “all sorts of terrain, all sorts of challenges.”

Rothfuss is training with a small team of cyclists who met at a Lexington cycle and coffee shop called Ride Studio Café.   The space smells of expresso and rubber tires.  A chalkboard on the wall features information about winter rides.   It’s a starting point for Rothfuss and her team who often ride along the miles of dirt paths connecting Lexington and Concord.     They navigate rocks, mud, water and on a recent winter day an invisible sheet of ice.

“I’ve never ridden cross country” said Rothfuss, “but I expect the challenge is going to be perseverance and some ability to grapple with challenge.”

Rothfuss is riding to raise money and awareness for young people on their own journey to overcome difficult odds:  students at Boston Day and Evening Academy in Roxbury.  It’s a charter school that offers young people one last chance to earn a high school diploma.   They’ve struggled with poverty, violence and hunger.  They have either dropped out of a traditional high school or, like 18-year-old Rachel Pizarro, been close to giving up.

“You just hit the point where you don’t want to do anything anymore,” said Pizarro.  “I stopped coming to school.”

She transferred to Boston Day and Evening Academy, graduated and is about to start college.

“They always find a way to work around whatever struggle you have and not every school does that,” said Pizarro.

Rothfuss made a connection through her friendship with the head of Boston Day and Evening Academy.     She visits regularly and says the students journey to graduation is more arduous than the one she’s training to tackle.

“I find it so compelling that these young adults – who are either getting an education or not as they enter their adult lives – one school is worried about them,” said Rothfuss.

When she hits the road Rothfuss will become and ambassador of sorts, stopping at similar schools along way to foster a connection among students who didn’t choose their path, but like Rothfuss, need to figure out a way to reach their goal.

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