First Five Years & Beyond kids getting ready for a bike safety lesson last summer in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, First Five Years & Beyond

First Five Years & Beyond kids getting ready for a bike safety lesson last summer in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, First Five Years & Beyond

Kent group receives $10,000 grant to promote bicycle safety for kids

Public Health - Seattle King County provides funds to First Five Years & Beyond

First Five Years & Beyond, a Kent-based nonprofit, benefited from a Public Health - Seattle & King County grant of $10,000 to promote bicycle safety.

Public Health announced the grant to the Kent group and two other nonprofits in its Dec. 21 Insider newsletter. Each group received $10,000 as part of an initiative launched last summer.

Based at 302 W. Harrison St. in downtown Kent and serving South King County, First Five Years & Beyond provides parents with the skills, tools and resources to support their children’s early education.

Thanks to the grant, they expanded their educational offerings to include bicycle safety for the first time. With expert help from Bike Works, staff provided bike safety lessons, several group rides, and free bikes, helmets, and locks to 22 African immigrant and African American youth ages 5 to 13.

“I learned about the Kent Interurban Trail, which is where I now go to ride my bike,” said Lois, one of the participants. “Before this program, I gave up riding a bike because I live on a steep and discouraging hill. As I learned about the trail, it gave me new joy for biking again.”

Some kids with little or no biking experience learned to ride a bike during the program. Others had not ridden in over two years, but this program allowed all the children to ride a bike this summer.

First Five Years & Beyond was founded in 2014 by Janet Gboluma-Kalonji, who is executive director, according to the nonprofit’s website. She came to the U.S. in 1997 as a refugee from Liberia. She has a bachelor’s in human development from Washington State University and a master’s in early childhood education from Concordia University, Portland.

​With over 20 years of experience in serving families and children as a teacher, coach, and program administrator, she has engaged in work that provided resources, support, and education in ways that advances equity and quality, according to the website.

​She understands firsthand the challenges immigrant families with children face in raising their children in a new country and that is what motivates her to do the work she does.

Public Health also awarded bicycle safety grants to Cycle Therapy Racing, of Auburn, and Bike Works, of Seattle, a nonprofit bicycle shop.

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