Lifestyle

Valley Forge High School actively seeks bike donations for refugee students


PARMA, Ohio – It was a community call to action from a high school in the Parma area.

Valley Forge High School is looking for new and lightly used bicycles and locks so that refugee students from Ukraine and other areas can safely go to school and get the education they need. necessary as they adjust to their new life in America.

School officials say they begin the 2022-2023 school year with a large influx of refugee students — some 120 from around the world arriving in Parma.

Some students come from war-torn Ukraine.

Transportation was necessary because the district cut back on transportation for high school students several years ago.

Valley Forge is the only high school in the district to offer the vital English Learner (ELL) program to these new students. Getting to work can be difficult as long as students are still adjusting to their new home.

“It is very, very difficult to relocate. I feel so sorry for these people,” said James Mika, Valley Forge High School Parent.

As a parent of Valley Forge High School and a teacher for the Cleveland area, Mika has witnessed the pain and anguish Ukrainian refugees have gone through over the past few months.

He and other members of the Parma community are now on a mission to give back — one bike at a time.

“I am the type of person who loves to collect bicycles. When people throw them on the curb, I fix them — so I’ll keep an eye on those. Mika says the newer bikes are the best.

Cycling to school is the primary means of transportation for dozens of Valley Forge High School students each day.

In fact, it was the only way some refugee students could get in and out of the classroom.

“A lot of Ukrainian families come here in Northeast Ohio – they don’t know the language, they don’t have family here, they don’t drive,” said Sylvie Argirakis, liaison officer at Valley Forge High School.

Valley Forge recently started a bike race to collect as many bikes as possible to help students settle into their new homes.

Donated bicycles are currently kept at the high school, but as soon as they are released, they will be picked up by students in need almost immediately.

School officials say the need is obvious and sometimes urgent.

The bicycles are the gateway to a new world, a new language and a new opportunity.

“When they see that bike, it’s something familiar; they had a bike back home, they had a bike ride back to Ukraine,” said Joe Kuchta, vice principal at Valley Forge High School.

Many refugee students have to travel several miles to get there, often on foot, and sometimes by bus and shuttle.

School officials say for most students it can be two to three miles above the commute.

Valley Forge officials hope residents will lend a hand and change lives with these bike donations and bike locks.

“For the students who came here a few months ago with what they could literally bring, it was very important that we provide for the basic needs,” says Argirakis.

Valley Forge High School currently accepts bicycle donations only and locks bikes by appointment — no dropouts.

If you have a new or lightly used bike, contact Sylvie Argiraki at 440-885-2372 or by email at argirakiss@parmacityschools.org. You can also call Christine Kirsch at 440-885-2442.

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