Donated bikes ‘life-changing’ for BYU ELC students

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Valentina Fres is an ELC student who received a bicycle from the Provo Bicycle Collective. She said the bicycle has changed her life. (Savannah Hopkinson)

The Provo Bicycle Collective has donated two bicycles every week for over a year to students of BYU’s English Language Center (ELC). As Thanksgiving draws near, the students are eager to express their gratitude for the gifts.

Each bike given to students was donated to the Bicycle Collective in nonworking condition, said Austin Taylor, director of the Provo Bicycle Collective. Volunteers fix each bike before they are given to students who need them, a process that can take many hours according to Taylor.

Since many students in the ELC don’t speak English, it’s harder for them to find a job, and often times they don’t have the same financial support other students do,” Taylor said. 

The Provo Bicycle Collective is doing more than just giving away bikes; it’s positively influencing these students’ lives.

Ben McMurry, curriculum coordinator at the ELC, said the bikes are given to students who need them most, to maximize the impact each gift has.

“The two students we send to the Bicycle Collective each week are chosen based on their need for a bike, the benefits they would have from having a bike, and any financial hardship they may have,” McMurry said.

Steffanie Peña Sanchez is one of the ELC students who received a bicycle from the Provo Bicycle Collective. This is her first semester at school in the United States, and she said the bicycle has changed her life.

“It’s amazing because I used to have to walk really far to school and back. I couldn’t do a lot of things because I was wasting a lot of time walking. I have more time, and I can go to other places faster, and experience more here,” Sanchez said. 

Oscar Murillo is another BYU ELC student who received a bicycle. A native Colombian, Murillo has spent less than six months in Provo, but this gift makes him feel right at home.

“It was a beautiful gift and made me feel like a special guest in the USA. Plus I really needed it,” Murillo said. 

Another bicycle recipient is Valentina Fres, who has spent even less time in the U.S. than Murrillo and Sanchez. Fres has been studying English at the ELC for just two months. She’s still learning about American culture, and said she’s been spending a lot of time thinking about Thanksgiving, in light of the gift she’s received.

“I think its a great blessing for a whole country to have a day to give thanks to God. I have never seen this in my life. I think in as much as we appreciate our blessings, we will grow spiritually and personally,” Fres said. 

The students also expressed their gratitude for the opportunity they have to receive higher education.

More information about the ELC and its programs can be found on its website. To find out more about the Provo Bicycle Collective, visit its website.

Editor’s note: Quotes from Oscar Murillo and Valentina Fres were translated from Spanish to English.