It was midmorning on the last day before Christmas break 2023 when kids’ names were called over the intercom at Macon’s Bruce Elementary.           

“Haley Davis. Adam Angel, Jess, Maya, Jane, Matthew Patman, Mackenzie Davis, Germaine Morgan...,” 

When they got to the gym, the children saw their nametags hanging from the handlebars of their new bicycles. 

Among the gifts children can dream for during the holidays, few loom as large as a new bike. And true enough, more than a few of the around 40 students were quick to try and balance on theirs. 

“I have a bike!” proclaimed one excited student. 

The Middle Georgia Chapter of 100 Black Men made this happen. The nonprofit organization fosters educational engagegment opportunities for African-American youth. Chapter president Bruce Riggins said it was an extension of the volunteer work his group already does at the school, like their Saturday reading program. 

“Last year, we gave the bikes out, to some of the kids in the program on Saturday. They rode the bike to the reading program,” Riggins said. “A bicycle is always exciting.”

Principal Kizzie Lott had been leveraging all the excitement for weeks. 

To be eligible for the drawing for a bike today, kids had to have good attendance. Attendance has been a problem after the COVID-19 pandemic. Lott said incentives like this help. 

“It kind of levels the playing field and it gives students an opportunity to be honored," Lott said, "even if 'I'm not the highest excelling student, but I'm coming to school and I'm making an effort to excel and to strive and to be better.'”

This incentivizing attendance is not a new effort for Lott. This holiday season, she’s been incentivizing adults, too: Make sure your young people get to school and you could get a gift card, for instance. 

Jaimie Hatton said her daughter loves school. Still, the bike with her daughter’s name on it meant a lot. 

Because she's never won anything like that,” Hatton said. “And that made her happy.”