Gravel Cyclist: Off-Track Students Have New Off-Road Champions

3/27/2017 on by

On August 1, 2017, five cyclists will turn their backs to the Pacific and begin a 3-month, 5,000 mile, mixed terrain ride to honor young adults whose route to a high school diploma is more challenging than the norm. The riders will take the path less traveled, on dirt trails and gravel roads, avoiding pavement whenever possible, on their journey from Seattle to Boston.

“Many have ridden across the country,” says REAL Ride founder Cris Rothfuss. “Far fewer have done it as a gravel ride.”

“It will not be easy. It will not be comfortable. It’s not supposed to be,” she continued. “The purpose of the REAL Ride is to raise funding and awareness for students left behind by the traditional education system, and to shine a light on the innovative schools that refuse to let them slip through the cracks. The path hasn’t been easy for the young people who inspire us, so by design, our ride won’t be either.”

The REAL Ride’s primary partner is Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), a high school in Roxbury, Massachusetts, that has pioneered innovative learning techniques to re-engage off-track students.

Says Alison Hramiec, Head of School at BDEA, “Most all of our students come to us struggling to finish high school because they are trying to learn in an ecosystem of multi-generational poverty, with its attendant risks of food and housing insecurity, mental and physical health concerns, violence, and other traumas. What inspires all of us at BDEA is that our students continue to rise despite these challenges. They are warriors. We feel lucky to play a role in their lives, helping them realize their potential.”

“It’s so heartening when someone from outside education can come into our community and in a short period of time understand the impact our work is having on our young adults. When I shared with staff Cris’ goal for the REAL Ride, they were truly touched and amazed that someone was willing to take on this challenge for our students,” she continued.

“BDEA demonstrates every day to their students that they are not defined by the immediate path in front of them, that they have the power and control to change the course. The REAL Ride was designed to reflect that,” says Rothfuss.

The REAL Ride also will pass through Denver, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, where like-minded alternative schools are meeting the unique needs of off-track high schools students. The team will carry students’ stories across the country to remind people that the reality and consequences of poverty — and diminished exposure to education — are not unique to any region of our country.

The C.B. Community School of Philadelphia recently announced its partnership with the REAL Ride. Partner schools in the other cities will be announced soon.

“It can be pretty daunting to think we are about to step away from jobs and lives to do this,” notes Rothfuss. “That we are putting everything on hold so we can pedal day after day for three months, but then I remember why we are doing it. We’re trying to make the world a little bit better of a place.”

Visit to learn how to join the growing list of companies and individual donors who are contributing to the cause. Also, follow along and help spread the word about the team’s progress on the REAL Ride’s InstagramFacebook, and Twitter accounts. You can also help support the team itself, which is partnering with in-kind gear sponsors and gratefully accepting donations to help off-set the expense of this immense undertaking.

The Team:
Cris Rothfuss, Executive Director at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Erin Abrahams, Veterinarian at MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center
Dan St. Croix, Visual Display Artist at Urban Outfitters
Perri Mertens, Digital Marketing Manager at OYO Sports
Jay Vasconcellos, Owner of Solstice Skateboarding

Corporate Sponsors (benefiting the schools):
Nellie Mae Education Foundation
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Dermatology & Skin Health
Ropes & Gray, LLP
Better World Club, Inc.
Location, Inc.

Ride Partners:
Seven Cycles
Lazer Sport
Clif Bar
UV Skinz

Contact Information:
Cris Rothfuss – organizer/rider/team leader
617-894-8920 (cell)

Lyn Ketterer – communications director
617-407-6877 (cell)