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Paying it forward

GATESVILLE – Germaine Powell had a desire to pay forward kindness he received from his fourth-grade teacher when he was a student at Gatesville Elementary School. About two decades later, he returned on June 6 to bring that vision to life.

Fourth-graders at Gatesville Elementary pause for a group photo with Germaine Powell (blue hat) who gifted them with new bicycles and scooters through his Community Cycles nonprofit. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

That kindness came in the form of new bicycles and scooters for all the fourth-grade students at the school, much to their surprise and delight.

“This has been something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” Powell said amidst a sea of 47 ecstatic students.

Powell explained that Kim Kirby had been his favorite teacher while he was a student at the elementary school. He faced some difficulties and challenges in his childhood, but Kirby encouraged him to succeed.

“Mrs. Kirby had such a big influence on my life. Coming from the background that I came from, and then she was just so open to me with love. And it made me feel like I could do anything, and it really projected me into where I am today,” he said.

Powell, who is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and now resides in Virginia, first came up with the idea to give back to his former teacher in 2013, but he didn’t have enough resources at first. Eventually, he created a nonprofit called Community Cycles. With donations from friends and family and more, they were finally able to reach his goal to provide bicycles and scooters to all of the fourth-graders at the school, which included Kirby’s current students.

“Our whole thought behind it (Community Cycles) is creating new cycles within the community. I grew up in a place that was kind of rough. So just breaking that cycle and creating new ones,” he explained.

He plans to continue bringing bicycles to the elementary school’s fourth grade class every year.

“I was extremely nervous,” Powell admitted about surprising the students, “but then when I saw their reaction, all the nerves went away and it was just like complete joy.”

Kirby, who has been teaching at the school for 29 years, said she was overwhelmed with emotions springing from the children’s happy reactions to Powell’s kindness. She noted overhearing a few students say the bicycles had “made their whole life.”

“You don’t know how much you’re going to bless my children,” Kirby recalled telling Powell when he initially told her about the plan.

Kirby recognized Powell for how hard he worked to get the funding for the gifts. She, Powell, and several others helped assemble the bicycles and scooters for about five hours the night before to make sure they were ready to present to the students.

“Germaine was a good kid. I tried to nurture him as much as I could,” Kirby continued. “It’s very touching to know that I touched a life and I made a difference.”

Gatesville Elementary Principal Dr. Shawn Wilson said they strive to teach students about working hard and paying it forward when they can.

“When somebody does do something nice for you or gives you something, then the best way to repay them is to say thank you and also to pay it forward,” she explained. “We are so grateful because this is just something that we did not expect. It was so kind, it was so generous, and it was something that he definitely did not have to do.”