In N.J., some kids learn there is no free ride

(CBS News) ASBURY PARK, N.J. - For some kids at the Jersey Shore, school vacation is no day at the beach -- they're putting their mettle to the pedal. We meet with them ... on the road.

At Second Life Bikes in New Jersey, kids who work 15 hours at the shop will get a free, used bike. CBS News

While most kids laze away the summer -- 11-year-old America Rice has a job to do.

Not far from her home here in Asbury Park, N.J., America works as a bicycle mechanic, of all things.

"That's because if you want something, you have to earn it," said America. "Everything is not going to come to you just when you want it. You have to do certain things, and if you're not able to do it then you won't get it."

That lesson, which never sinks into some kids, is already greased under the nails of little America. She and dozens of other kids like her are spending part of their summer working for no money at Second Life Bikes. It's a non-profit run by a 41-year-old former Wall Streeter named Kerri Martin.

"I actually thought it was going to be that I would have to sign up kids or recruit them," said Kerri. "And it really became kids just told other kids. I hear them outside actually saying, 'Do you work here? Yeah, I got a job here.'"

Here's the deal: Any kid who clocks in 15 hours helping around the shop earns a free, used bike of their choosing. Four years into it, about 400 kids have earned bikes this way -- including America Rice.

"It made me feel more mature," said America, "because I worked for a very long time and I got something out of it, so it made me feel like I could do it."

Of course, that raises the question: Why is she still doing it? Once they got their bikes, you'd think the kids would be pedaling away in high gear.

America Rice, 11, works at Second Life Bikes. She says working at the shop makes her feel more mature and that she got something out of the experience. CBS News

"Oh no, we see them all the time, actually," said Kerri.

And that's the most amazing thing about this place. Kids like America, Sylvester and Lakai -- who keep coming back to hone their skills -- feel a part of something and help other kids earn their bikes.

"So now I'm giving back to the community," said America.

Giving back to the community - at age 11.

Kerri and her kids are charity at its best. They don't see goodwill as just giving away the goods. Heck, around here you can't even get a smoothie without breaking a sweat.

Here helping people means showing people. It's like Sylvester told me: All he wants is for other kids to feel the same joy he felt when he earned his bike.

"I felt accomplished," said Sylvester. "Like if I put my mind to anything I could just do it. It was like one of those moments where you feel free."

Sounds like they're fixing a lot more than bikes.

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.