Meet JTK Bike Shop star Woodjy Flezinord

BELLE GLADE — JTK Bike Shop began in June 2017 in Belle Glade. It is a non-profit youth development project where local teens learn to fix bicycles, operate a business and develop strength of character. Although the team does not receive a paycheck, they are entitled to participate in the family meal at the end of each day.

At the time, I personally knew all of the neighborhood kids that showed up to work every day. However, Woodjy Flezinord was different. I met Woodjy because the other kids invited him to join us! Since that day, Woodjy has remained a valuable member of JTK Bike Shop and has grown into a leadership role at JTK Bike Shop.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Woodjy Flezinord, 12-year-old lead shop mechanic at JTK Bike Shop.

Woodjy is a quiet, well-spoken young man with good manners. He began at the bike shop with no knowledge of bicycles, tools, troubleshooting, or perseverance. At 12 years old, Woodjy was an unfocused preteen youngster who was very unsure of the world and his place in it.

I soon discovered that Woodjy (like many kids I know) was managing the daily struggle of navigating two different cultural worlds. At home, at church and with family, Woodjy speaks his native language (Creole) and is immersed in his Haitian culture.

Woodjy was born in Haiti and has clear memories of the struggles his family endured before they left their country for safety here in America. However, in school, on the basketball court, in the neighborhood and at the bike shop Woodjy is required to embrace American culture. For the longest time, I thought Woodjy wasn’t listening to my instructions in the bike shop, but what I learned was that there was a glitch in our communication. Woodjy had never heard American words like sprocket, chain, valve, pedal, etc. When I realized he wasn’t being defiant but simply confused, I was able to clarify my instructions and we all learned.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Woodjy Flezinord (right) relaxing with Kris Loesch (left), volunteer master bike mechanic at JTK Bike Shop. Woodjy is Kris’ apprentice.

Over the past two years, our relationship has built into a loving supportive connection. Woodjy is smart and an eager learner which makes it an absolute pleasure to teach him new skills. Woodjy is also very motivated.

He graduated seventh grade last month and he is pursuing a program this summer to complete eighth grade and therefore, begin high school in August. He knows he is sacrificing some summer fun but Woodjy is determined to be successful.

I am very proud of how hard he is working to reach his goals. Woodjy has grown from an awkward, unfocused preteen who didn’t know “righty tighty, lefty loosey,” into a strong confident young man who is our lead shop mechanic apprenticing with our volunteer master bike mechanic, Kris Loesch. Kris and Woodjy have also developed a friendship through their work together at the bike shop.

My favorite thing about Woodjy from the day I met him was his compassion for others. Every night as I say goodbye to the kids and prepare to drive home, Woodjy has never missed a time to say, “Drive safe, Ms. Dawn!” His kindness makes me feel loved and reveals what a caring young man he is!

My life is richer for having known Woodjy Flezinord and I look forward to all the amazing things he will do in this world.

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