Emerging Leader’s Love of Teens Drives Bike Skill and Character Strength Program

Jessica Compton, a Charleston, S.C. native and former Rotary Scholar, is described on Village Wrench’s website as “a smiley mountain soul and an enthusiastic people person.” After a brief tenure as a high school English teacher, Compton was hired as their Program Director in fall 2018 and hit the ground running.

“It’s been a roller coaster of feeling I’m right where God has placed me and sometimes feeling overwhelmed,” she says. “I feel incredibly grateful.”

In 2019, We Raise awarded Compton and Village Wrench an Emerging Leader grant in recognition of her transformative work. Village Wrench is one of four social enterprises under Mill Community Ministries (Greenville, S.C.).

“Partnering with We Raise has helped me unbelievably,” Compton said, adding that her mentorship with Chris Sichel, one of three We Raise leadership coaches, and connection with Eric Hawley, We Raise Director of Programs, are priceless aspects of the grant. “To have touchpoints who are really investing in my leadership and Village Wrench’s growth is invaluable.”

Village Wrench’s mission: to connect their community through bicycle repair, upward mobility, and educational empowerment—or as some ‘wrenchers’ like to say, “we fix broken bikes because God fixes broken people.” In addition to repairing bikes and selling refurbished models, Village Wrench offers the 6-Cycle program, a bike repair and character strength building program for teens, and provides opportunities for residents and youth to earn a bike through community service. They also run free monthly bike repair clinics.

Students who complete the 6-Cycle program can apply for a paid, part-time apprentice position at the shop. The We Raise grant allowed Village Wrench to nearly double business hours, creating more relational time with customers and employment opportunities for students. Compton anticipates hiring four more apprentices in summer 2021.

“We’re still under 10 students – but in terms of exponential growth, we’ve doubled,” she says.

Jaquel, a shy student who hung out in the shop before completing the 6-Cycle program, was hired in June 2020.

“Jaquel is wholeheartedly invested,” Compton said. “He enjoys everything about the shop.” But during his interview with Compton, Jaquel wouldn’t make eye contact. When Compton asked him about it, Jaquel said that interactions with the Department of Social Services as a child taught him to “just keep his head down.” Today, he holds his head high.

“His confidence has grown—you can tell he feels a sense of home and purpose here,” Compton said. An aspiring computer science engineer, Jaquel recently was hired as a part-time wheel builder at another Greenville bike shop.

“That’s the ideal: we’re training students how to do a job well now and for the rest of their lives,” Compton said.

Your financial support means that Village Wrench can build loving relationships in the community and empower students like Jaquel. “You are investing in the development of students and changing the trajectory of their lives forever,” Compton said. Thank you!

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