A Lynchburg-based giveaway program is expanding into Campbell County Public Schools with iPad incentives meant to promote exemplary behavior and stronger bonds within the community.
The B.I.K.E. program — Believing in Kids Excelling — began in Lynchburg City Schools as a way to build relationships with city youth and encourage academic achievement. One Community, One Voice spearheaded the effort to reward elementary school students with free bicycles and helmets, garnering support from city faith leaders and public safety departments.
Now, after an anonymous benefactor donated more than $8,000 to the program, it is expanding to Altavista area schools to reward students in four categories: behavior, attendance, honor roll and most improved.
Through the program, One Community, One Voice plans to hand out four bikes per semester to Altavista Elementary School, and will provide eight iPads for the middle and high school students, hoping to create a more effective incentive for older students. The program will continue throughout the year.
“We have testimony from parents, teachers and principals that we work with,” said James Camm, a pastor and organizer behind One Community, One Voice. “We know the program has been effective in Lynchburg, and we are excited it is coming to the county.”
The program is a partnership between One Community, One Voice; Campbell County Public Schools; and the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office.
Campbell County Deputy Jeff Rater said it builds relationships between deputies and students in a positive way, allowing community policing strategies to move to the forefront.
Rater and Camm have worked together on community projects for more than five years. Rater recently left the Lynchburg Police Department after 20 years, and joined the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office at the beginning in January. He said he is thrilled to bring that partnership to Campbell County.
“To build something in the city was special, but I live here,” Rater said of the county. “My kids go to school here, I go to church here ... I can have an influence on making things better.”
He remembers first bringing B.I.K.E. into Lynchburg schools, and students being intimidated by the officers in uniform. But as the year went on, Rater said he watched students grow more comfortable around deputies, asking questions and “feeling safe around us.”
“We are going to have to balance law enforcement and community policing,” Rater said. “We can find a happy balance in the county. The biggest thing is the relationship with our schools, our kids and the parents.”
To see the students presented with their awards at the end of the year — be it a bike or an iPad — makes it all worth it, he said.
“He’s a hero up there,” Rater said of the student on the stage, presented with a new bike and helmet. “It’s not ‘everybody gets a trophy.’ He had to earn it.”
Camm said they plan to kick off the program when school is back in session, be it later this spring or fall 2020. The program starts with a splash, inviting area public safety and local representatives, with banner and prizes on display to get students fired up.
If the program is a success in Altavista, Rater said they hope to expand into Brookneal and Rustburg.
Clay Stanley, assistant superintendent for Campbell County Public Schools, said they always are excited to create new partnerships in the community.
“We are always looking to reward kids that do a good job,” Stanley said. “The vast majority do a good job day in and day out ... it never hurts to say, ‘Hey, good job. Here’s an iPad.”
Sarah Honosky covers Appomattox and Campbell counties at The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5556.