By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY
Some 520 students in Grades 1 through 5 at Valley of Enchantment Elementary School were summoned to the school playground on Tuesday, Aug. 29 for what was billed as an anti-bullying assembly.
It was just that. However, in an attempt to capture their attention, which it did, it turned out to also be an hour-long BMX freestyle demonstration featuring two bicycle motocross national champions, one from Texas and the other from Bogota, Columbia.
Needless to say, both assemblies – one at 9 a.m. for Grades 1 through 3 and the other at 10 a.m. for grades 4 and 5 – dazzled the youngsters with amazing demonstrations that included spinning around in the air above the higher of two ramps and jumping over a chair placed on top of the lower ramp, performed by Columbian national freestyle champion Michael Mogollon.
Before Mogollon began his next ramp jump, announcer Robert Castillo, the U.S. national freestyle champion, asked if there was any student brave enough to volunteer to stand at the top of the ramp with their arms stretched high above their head. Only one boy, Gustavo, raised his hand, so he was escorted to the top of the ramp, which was about five feet high.
Mogollon performed a few spins on the pavement to warm up for his next jump. Finally, he charged up the ramp with all his might and cleared Gustavo by several feet, which elicited loud cheers and clapping from the crowd of students and teachers surrounding the ramp. Gustavo was presented a freestyle placard for his bravery.
Next came a demonstration of the “Bunny Hop,” which is akin to jumping over a limbo stick. Each time Mogollon cleared the limbo stick, it was raised to the next highest level, the highest of which was 36 inches. He only messed up once, which goes to show that even the pros can’t always achieve their goal 100 percent of the time.
Castillo then described the bicycle safety rules that should be followed by every cyclist: “What I do is very dangerous. Every day people get injured or killed. Always wear a helmet, don’t ride on the sidewalk and be sure to to walk your bicycle in the crosswalk when you have a green light and it is safe to do so. Up here on the mountain it is very dangerous to ride on the roads because the roads are narrow and there are a lot of curves where you can’t see the traffic coming around the corner,” he told the students.
Finally, it was time for Castillo to talk about bullying. “Follow the Golden Rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Bullying happens to everybody and it’s not your fault, so don’t take it personally and, if you do get bullied, tell your teacher, your friends, and your parents.
Following the assembly, the Alpine Mountaineer asked Castillo how old he was when he started freestyling. “It was around 1982, when I was 13,” he said. As for what inspired him to become a professional freestyle rider, he responded, “I always liked to stay active, and back then it was the only way I could get around.”
One teacher suggested that parents should talk to their children about bullying to determine whether their child is being bullied and, if not, to make sure their child is not the bully.