Students in Public Service: BMXlife – A Hub for Youth Development
Interview with George Maroukis
The following profile is the first in a series of public service student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.
Job title: Cofounder of BMXlife and Customer Service Specialist at U.S. Department of the Treasury
Degree: Current Master of Public Administration Student at American Military University
Where did your concept for BMXlife originate?
My father originally got me interested in BMX riding. I was a part of the Minersville Trail scene through the late 90s and early 2000s, which allowed me the opportunity to network with riders from around the world. At the trails, we befriended riders from around the U.S. and it would be common to meet BMXers from around the world on any given day.
Growing up in a largely neglected area of Pennsylvania, bonding with riders from around the world through this shared passion of BMX riding would forever shape my life. BMX was the glue which would bind us together and also open the discussion to understanding cultural differences.
It was an amazing experience. Anyone involved from my area knew that it was something special. From those very early experiences I knew I was to be involved in BMX and cycling for the rest of my life. Acting as a medium, BMX provided kids from my area a base from which to make a better understanding of the world. What better way to contribute to underserved communities than to share that cultural binding experience with those who lack the resources to participate?
What led you to choose a master’s degree with us?
I earned a B.A. in Communications from Pennsylvania State University at State College, PA in 2007. During this time frame, I had multiple knee surgeries. I started to pursue bicycle commuting and road cycling to stay healthy, but the BMX culture had already shaped how I viewed the world.
In 2010, I joined the U.S. Army Reserve as a Preventive Medicine Specialist while I lived in Austin, TX. In 2012, I completed a Small Business Management Certification from Austin Community College.
The next year, I deployed to Afghanistan as a team leader, completing 11 missions throughout all of that theater. By the end of 2014, I enrolled in AMU to earn my Master of Public Administration degree.
How have you been using your knowledge from your classes in your current career?
I’ve worked in the public sector at the local, city and federal level for a combined six years. Throughout my program, I’ve been building on my knowledge base of processes in public policy. My education at the university is helping to push me toward what I’m truly passionate about, which is helping the people in my community.
Why is there a need for this type of service in the Philadelphia community?
Poverty is prevalent in Philadelphia and leads to violence, poor physical health and a lack of developmental resources.
According to Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, nearly one out of every 2.5 children below the age of 18 live below the federal poverty line. That’s approximately 135,000 children in this area. One Day At A Time’s BMXlife Program is designed to specifically help children between the ages of 6 and 16 in these underserved neighborhoods.
The mission for my company is to develop healthy lifestyle practices in at-risk youth through a shared passion for BMX freestyle riding.
What are the key areas of focus for BMXlife?
We are focused on four key issues in the program:
- Anti-violence — Violence is the 3rd leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. A 10% reduction in violence could reduce total government costs by approximately $240/resident a year in Philadelphia, PA.
- Healthy choices — Education is an important component to teaching youth about the health implications related to binge drinking, smoking and STDs.
- Physical health — Philadelphia ranks 1st among the seven largest cities in which teen obesity is prevalent, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health Community Health Assessment. BMX riding fulfills the recommended exercises essential to child health which in turn may reduce medical costs and obesity-related health issues.
- Bicycle safety — There is a high rate of child pedestrians and bicyclists involved in accidents with motor vehicles, caused by improper safety gear and lack of proper road riding awareness. The BMXlife program aids in educating participants on bike safety, which in turn may reduce traffic crashes and serious injuries.
What is your goal for the community and your new company?
The goal of BMXlife is to better the communities which we serve and expose participants to an everlasting, positive BMX culture. Our first summer session launched in July 2016 and is set to operate three days a week for three hours a day. Each riding session hosts one of the focus area topics and always concludes with a BMX ride session.
We anticipate a total of 30 sessions to be held this summer and to host additional special events. It’s an exciting time for us and our community. I cannot wait to have my passion project turn into a life-changing reality for these kids.
To find out more about BMXlife, please visit http://bmxlife.org.