For many people, being a part of a team is a quintessential experience of childhood. Many kids at Hillcrest haven’t had the opportunity to play sports or participate in other activities that provide a team environment. However, there is one experience here that provides them with that sense of teamwork, accomplishment, and responsibility. And that is the Honda NYPUM program.
NYPUM stands for National Youth Project Using Minibikes and it’s an activity that many Hillcrest students take great pleasure in. Originally, NYPUM was anti-gang and anti-drug programming at YMCAs, implemented to help keep kids off the streets and engaged in something they love. Since then, it’s expanded to sheriffs departments, district attorneys, residential programming (like Hillcrest), and beyond.
The 50-year old-program was brought to Hillcrest in the early 2000s and has taken off as a popular activity since. Hillcrest currently has 62 students participating in the program, mostly from Highpoint and Brookside ITU. More recently, kids from the Academy and ASD Residential Program have gotten involved as well.
Work as a Team Work
“This is their only chance to feel like they’re on a team and they really engage in it in that way,” says Matt Lee, Hillcrest’s NYPUM Coordinator. “They get the shirts. They’re proud to wear the shirts. A couple days before event day, they all band together to make sure they wear their shirts together…so they look like a team. That’s a great component of it. That camaraderie of being a [team] member is great for these kids.”
“Being a part of a team is a good thing because it helps everyone work together, you are only as good as your weakest link,” says J, a student at Highpoint. “Everyone works really hard and so it’s great when we see a new rider finish his training. We are the Muddy Ducks for a reason, because we ride in the mud and dirt and like ducks in a row. Learning what we do in NYPUM teaches us to ride motorcycles and sparks interest in that stuff for when we are done with Hillcrest and teaches us skills we’ll have for our entire life.”
Incentive to Meet Goals
“It provides the students with an academic goal, a behavioral goal, and a clinical goal that they need to achieve in order to participate. Participation allows them the ability to ride, to learn, and to maintain the trails, the equipment, as well as the bikes,” says Lee.
Meralys, a student at Brookside ITU says that NYPUM helped her meet her behavior goals. “NYPUM is a great program for anyone. [It] helped me decrease my unsafe behaviors at Hillcrest, because it gave me something amazing to look forward to. NYPUM helps kids who don’t have activities…really feel happy and free from stress or worries.”
She continues: “When I first saw other kids [riding], I wasn’t sure about it, but now I’m frequently riding at Hillcrest and helping other kids learn and participate. All of my peers really enjoy riding because we are all doing something we never thought we could do. NYPUM is such an exciting program that gives kids a great feeling of freedom and happiness that they can carry for the rest of their [lives.]”
Opportunity to Grow
Hillcrest students don’t have the opportunity to do much alone. They are in class, walking in groups, eating together, and constantly supervised. Spending time on the bikes is a chance to be with their own thoughts.
“Not only are we going to put you on a motorcycle, so you’re the only person on it, you’re also inside the helmet. So you can’t hear a whole lot so your thoughts are all your own. It’s really independent learning. You’re working through problems on your own and developing the ability to understand and recognize a problem,” Lee says.
The lessons they learn on the bikes apply to what they’re doing away from the bikes as well. If they see another student whom they have an issue with, they need to recognize the problem and think through their course of action. NYPUM’s SEE acronym stands for Stand, Evaluate, and Execute. While this is helpful in decision making on the bike, it applies all through life. Hillcrest kids are learning that SEE doesn’t just apply on the bikes, but in the rest of their lives as well.
NYPUM is a program that adds a lot of value to our students quality of life here. It’s an incentive. It’s a chance to be in a team environment. Of course, it’s also a chance for our kids to have fun and be kids.
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Don’t forget to read about how Hillcrest Educational Centers makes the holidays festive for the students.