A group of unlikely partners gathered together last Sunday, November 12, 2006, under the bright sunshine of Southern California to embark on a sacred journey. These unlikely partners weren’t gathered inside a sanctuary of stone and stained glass, they collected under race canopies at a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s facility and around an unopened crate containing a Yamaha WR 250 donated by Montclair Yamaha. Their prayers were that the still-boxed dirt bike would be successfully assembled, modified and compete in a test that was two and a half months away.Just as thousands of Americans gather in churches for a common purpose, this diverse group of people was brought together by one common purpose as well – a dirt bike. This group of unlikely partners, two teenagers from the Sheriff’s Vital Intervention and Directional Alernatives (VIDA) Program, a team of off-duty Sheriff’s Deputies, a Registered Nurse, a school counselor, a real estate broker, a local business man and several family members were all gathered this day to embark on their sacred journey of preparing the bike to compete in one of the longest, toughest and most grueling motorcycle torture tests in the United States, the Dirt Rider 24 Hour Torture Test.The motorcycle racing team known as LASD (Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies) Motorsports – Motorcycle Racing was founded by deputies who have a passion for racing and for helping young people. This team, consisting of 10 Sheriff’s Deputies who compete in motocross, desert events, Baja, and road racing was invited by Dirt Rider publisher Jimmy Lewis to participate in the 24 Hour Torture Test based on our charitable organizations outreach programs and its interest in having two at-risk youth participate in every phase of the preparations for the event.Once invited, the team had to select the two deserving young people from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departments VIDA Program. The VIDA program is specifically designed for at-risk youth by utilizing proactive, innovative techniques for positive redirection. Overseen by Deputy Sheriff personnel, the program offers treatment, prevention and positive reinforcement to alter negative behavior. The most typical scenarios involve referrals to the Sheriff’s Department or requests from parents to have their children admitted to the program. Once admittance has been approved, the minor is directed to the program’s available assistance components, including anger management, family counseling, mentoring, educational assistance, health training and physical fitness, career guidance, tattoo removal, and community services, including graffiti removal and weed and trash abatement.All the young people in the VIDA Program were screened by the Deputies managing the program and 18 potential candidates were selected. Those 18 candidates were then subjected to an interview board consisting of LASD Motorsports – Motorcycle Racing members. After the exhaustive interview process two young people were chosen – Waniesha Cunningham and Joseph Arango. They were selected because of their candor, willingness to accept direction, their outstanding effort demonstrated in the VIDA Program and their communication skills. Now dirtrider.com and the LASD Motorsports – Motorcycle Racing team is putting those communication skills to the test by introducing them to the world of journalism, here on dirtrider.com.
Hello, I am Waniesha Cunningham, I am 16 years old and a junior in high school. I was lead to the VIDA Program by my mother because I was disrespectful, and was getting poor grades. I have been in the program for four weeks now and I have learned a lot of new things about behavior, respect, responsibility, discipline and accountability. When I learned about the deputies building a motorcycle and getting ready to race it I was excited. I was excited most about the opportunity to write articles for a magazine. It was a chance to do something most kids would never get to do. I never thought I would be picked because there were so many other people being interviewed. The interview was very challenging because I got real nervous, and didn’t know if I did well and how I compared to the others. I also went first so I really didn’t know what to expect. When the deputies started interviewing me I just acted like myself. Obviously it went well.When the Deputies told us who the winners were, I was so happy because I knew my mom would be very proud. I couldn’t believe I had been chosen from all the other kids. I didn’t know what to expect when I went to the Sheriff’s Academy to build the motorcycle. Building the motorcycle was a very fun experience for me. I had so much fun unscrewing screws and screwing things back on the bike. Taking apart the carburetor was the hardest thing to do because if we did something wrong the bike wouldn’t run at all. I learned a lot about motorcycles and how they are built. I expected a lot more parts to need to be put together, but the motorcycle came out of the crate mostly assembled. I learned a lot about teamwork from working with the Deputies on this project and I am looking forward to learning more about motorcycles and the torture test.
My name is Joseph Arango, I am a 17 year old high school junior and I am in the VIDA Program. I have made some mistakes while growing up in the Rampart area of Los Angeles and those mistakes led me into the VIDA Program. I have been in the program for four weeks now and I have made a lot of positive changes in my life. The Deputies who run the VIDA Program taught me about accountability, discipline, hardwork, exercise, and self-esteem. Since being in the program I have been accountable for my mistakes and have been working hard to change the way I used to be. I really like being in the VIDA Program.When I was told about the interviews I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to think because growing up I didn’t like cops. I had some trouble with cops and didn’t trust them. Once I was called in, I did my best and did what the VIDA Deputies have been teaching about looking people in the eyes when I talk, talking respectfully, and talking so people can hear me. When the race team announced that I was a winner, I was happy and excited. My mom is so proud of me and I am excited about this whole project.When my mom and I first arrived on Sunday at the Sheriff’s Station for the bike build I saw news reporters and a lot of deputies. As soon as I stepped out of the car the news reporter started interviewing me. They started asking me questions about how I had been selected and how I felt about it. I was kind of nervous but I still answered them. After that the deputies and I started the building of the bike. It was fun and hard at the same time. There were a lot of parts to modify or upgrade. It was fun learning how to work as a team because we got a lot done. At the end all we needed was the bike to start. When it did I knew we had done a good job.I learned that teamwork and hard work can accomplish a lot in one day. I also learned that cops are like other people and you have to get know them. It was a real different way of seeing cops. All the people on the team were very nice and helpful. The biggest lesson I learned was that you can do a lot with teamwork. This was a fun day. I had to miss church but I learned that off-road racing is like church to a lot of people. I am excited about the rest of this program and can’t wait to learn more.For more information on VIDA contact www.lasd.org/VIDA or contact Deputy Meglan at (323) 586-7250. If parents in other parts of the country have questions call Deputy Meglen because he has numerous resources for referrals.We would like to thank Montclair Yamaha for donating the motorcycle, IMS gas tank, and the pipe. Contact them at www.montclairyamaha.com. Thanks Ty Davis of Zip-Ty Racing for their donation of several engine accessories and other parts: FastCo for their bars: Parts411.com for their parts support: Vortex Racing for sprockets and chains (www.vortex-racing.com): FMF for their custom pipe (www.fmf.com): Whelen for the emergency lighting: Simpson Racing for our riding gear, helmets and team shirts (www.teamsimpson.com): Caddis Sports for our race canopies (www.caddissports.com): Sidi for our off-road boots (www.motonation.com): MotorTabs our exclusive sport drink supplier: Powerstands for our stands and tables (www.powerstands.com): MechnixWear for our work gloves and aprons (www.mechanixwear.com): and all of our loyal donors.