When the National Interscholastic Cycling Association announced its annual awards on March 15, the U Create Macon team had reason to be proud. Actually, two reasons!
Richone Jackson won the Specialized Student-Athlete Leadership Award and Jaddarious Taylor received the GU Energy Extraordinary Courage Award. The awardees are members of the U Create Macon Bike Team and the Middle Georgia Composite Team, and are the only Georgians to bring home NICA awards.
“Richone and Jaddarrious were in disbelief that they won national awards. And when I told them there was a pool of over 25,000 students nationally, one of them got emotional,” said Charise Stephens, executive director of U Create Macon.
She jokingly said she can’t reveal which one, or else they may not speak to her again.
The NICA Awards are presented across eleven categories to individuals who have been nominated by their peers as the most outstanding student-athletes, dedicated coaches, and most supportive volunteers and sponsors that have contributed to the youth cycling movement during the past year.
Stephens said her students’ achievements have had an effect on their peers.
“The announcement of the awards really inspired our kids,” she said. “Some of the U Create Macon kids in our program have never gotten an award and to see their teammates getting a national award inspired them.”
And it wasn’t just the students who have been heartened by their success.
“To be quite honest, this award inspired the adults. We have come a long way from a club with borrowed bikes, to a team receiving national awards. I would have never thought it a million years that four people — Coach Lisa, Coach Janet, Ms. Gigi, and myself — could change our community like this,” she said. “These last two years have been magical.”
As news spread of the awards, interest in Stephens’ programs increased almost immediately.
“Since the announcement of the awards, we have gotten seven calls from parents wanting their kids to participate in our program. This momentum will be helpful as we are growing into We Bike GA chapters throughout Georgia,” she said. “Our goal is to continue to have more smiles by the mile and give every kid — no matter their financial situation — outdoor adventures.”
NICA President Steve Matous said, “The 2020 NICA Award recipients exemplify our mission of building strong minds, bodies, character and communities through interscholastic cycling. Even during a year when activities were restricted due to the pandemic, our student-athletes, coaches, volunteers and community found new and innovative ways to embrace our values and continue to bring NICA’s mission to our community. Through their involvement and contributions to their leagues, teams and the broader NICA community, each recipient has made a unique and profound impact.”
Similarly, Stephens said the U Create Macon students did not let the pandemic lessen their determination or dampen their creativity.
“Our goal with U Create Macon is for youths to ‘create’ their own future and this national NICA award shows that anything is possible,” she said. Our kids are dreaming bigger each day because of their love for cycling. It’s opening up a new world to them and our community will benefit from this for generations to come. Even with a global pandemic, our bike teams never stopped and our kids have flourished during these uncertain times.”
U Create’s success is truly the result of a team effort involving more than 20 volunteer coaches along with a dedicated group of SAG/general volunteers who support the mountain biking and road cycling programs year round.
“Our volunteers have donated over 10,000 hours to the success of this program and their love shows in the accomplishments of our kids,” Stephens said. “It shows in their smiles.”
While Stephens is proud of the recent awards, she said they are just getting started.
“So far our organization can say that we have NICA national winners, Positive Athlete regional winners, and our own awards ‘Middle Georgia Loves Bikes’ award for our students. We are looking forward to bringing more awards to Georgia,” she said.