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The Daily Tar Heel

Youth cyclists to bike 1,800 miles along Underground Railroad

Local high school students will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War by bicycling 1,800 miles north, following the clandestine footsteps of runaway slaves.

The Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling group will take 10 high school students along the Underground Railroad from Mobile, Ala., to Niagara Falls, N.Y., this summer, focusing on the theme of freedom to commemorate the Civil War.

“This summer, we’re looking to do something that’s monumental,” said group co-founder Kevin Hicks.

Starting June 13, the group will ride for at least 40 days. While there is no official route of the Underground Railroad, the students will ride the longest possible course.

Ife Sangoode, a senior at Chapel Hill High School, was one of the last students to join the group.

“As a big history fan, I think it will be very educational and enlightening to see the environment and see where my ancestors went when they were experiencing the Civil War and slavery,” she said.

Every weekend for the past year, the students have trained at 8 a.m., performing upper-body conditioning at Hicks’ home. Afterward, they take distance bike rides ranging from 20 to 100 miles.

Sangoode said training has been rigorous, but she has improved.

“I was really doubting myself in the beginning, but it’s totally possible if you put the time into it,” she said. “I wanted to give up, but friends were pushing me, and I’m sticking to it.”

The trip is funded entirely by donations, and the students hope to have their first fundraiser May 20. The only donators so far have been Hicks and his wife, Suepinda Keith.

The group does not have hotel sponsorships, so Hicks is making arrangements for the group to stay and eat in Quaker communities along the trail.

Hicks said the group is still looking for sponsors to cover fuel costs, support vehicles and equipment like glasses, gloves and socks.

The cycling group was established by Hicks and Keith a little more than a year ago, and the couple aims to provide a fitness program for area minority teenagers.

“When we started, we were alarmed by the high rates of child obesity and diabetes, especially in the economically disadvantaged minority community,” Keith said.

“We really strive to empower them to be aware of all things like contributing to the environment and making a statement for health. Biking is a way to do it.”

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