We’re Hiring: Program and Education Director

Program and Education Director

Norte is seeking a PROGRAM AND EDUCATION DIRECTOR to join Team Orange. The ideal candidate will be passionate about happy, healthy, strong communities and active-for-life kids. 

The Program and Education Director directs and creates a range of programming activities that further Norte’s mission. They organize, implement, and evaluate Norte’s core programs, including developing and refining Norte’s curriculum. This position requires a genuine enthusiasm for Norte’s work and a passion for seeing youth grow and succeed. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are essential to effectively interact with and build trust and confidence among our members and supporters.


  • Reports to: Interim Executive Director
  • Supervises: Program Coordinator, the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, and seasonal staff, namely coaches 

This position is a Leadership Team position, working closely with operations, communications, and development team directors. In addition, this position will strengthen external relationships with community members, such as partners, donors, volunteers, and the general public.


  • Oversee coordination, implementation, evaluation, and sustainability of Norte’s core educational programs. These include Summer Bike Camp, Adventure Bike Club, the Northern Michigan Youth Mountain Bike Team, Bikes For All, Estrellas (in-school balance bike programs), and Solutions (bike mechanic courses).
  • Foster and develop patron relations with an eye on program retention, recruitment, and organizational engagement (i.e., students, volunteers, donors, seasonal staff).


  • Manage the hiring and training process for seasonal staff necessary to run Norte programming successfully. 
  • Evaluate all programming to set short and long-term goals, helping to create impact sustainability standards to support the organization’s brand, and to attract grants and funding. 
  • Lead the Program Team with a focus on retaining and attracting essential employees.
  • Conduct and document quarterly and annual reviews with those who directly report to the Program And Education Director. 


We measure success at Norte by first recognizing that success is a team effort. To achieve this, we work to develop a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support.

The Program and Education Director will succeed if their communication is clear, concise, and professional. They follow, develop, and improve systems and procedures, building and running programming that advances Norte’s vision of happy, healthy, strong communities. 


Norte requires at least five years of relevant experience and a bachelor’s degree, preferably in education, non-profit management, or a related field. Additionally, the right candidate will have at least a year of experience supervising others.


  • Desire to learn and grow professionally
  • Exhibit a passion for active living 
  • Strong leadership and communication skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Extremely detail-oriented with solid organization skills
  • Exhibit excellent time management skills with an ability to meet deadlines and strategic objectives
  • Excel at working individually and as part of a team
  • Practical problem-solving and project management skills
  • Proficient with standard office software (i.e., Google Suite Drive) and ideally, experience in customer relationship management (CRM) tools 

The Program and Education Director also needs to work flexible hours, including occasional evenings and weekends.


The Program and Education Director is a full-time FLSA-exempt position with a starting annual salary of $56,000.

  • Benefits: Medical, paid vacation, paid holidays, technology stipend, flexible work schedule.
  • Hours: M-F during the day plus occasional work on weeknights and weekends.


On a typical day, the Program and Education Director will work with core and seasonal staff in Norte’s business casual environment at the Clubhouse and Wheelhouse in Grand Traverse County Civic Center Park and work remotely as necessary. In addition, site visits outside of the Civic Center at regional trailheads, local schools, and with community partners are expected.


There are two steps to apply: 

  1. Submit a cover letter and a resume in PDF form to jobs@elgruponorte.org with “Program and Education Director” in the subject line. 
  2. Submit an online job application at elgruponorte.org/jobs/application

Applications will be accepted until Sunday, October 3, at midnight eastern standard time. 

The ideal candidate would start employment in late October to early November 2021. 


Norte is an equal opportunity and an at-will employer. The above position description describes the position currently available and is not intended to be an employment contract. Norte reserves the right to modify the duties or position description at any time. This position is located in Traverse City and is considered to be exempt.

Download the above description in a PDF.

Download “20210914–Education-Director-Job-—-Posting.pdf” 20210914–Education-Director-Job-—-Posting.pdf – Downloaded 31 times – 53 KB

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Happy. Healthy. Strong.

2021 Summer Bike Camp Report

2021 Summer Bike Camp Report

We invite you to explore the impact of Norte’s annual Summer Bike Camp — this year offered in five communities, plus a unique bike camp experience at Kalkaska through a new collaboration with SEEDs. Please join us in reviewing and celebrating another summer keeping kids moving. Thank you to everyone who made this summer’s bike camp memorable.

You can peruse all of our past program reports, strategic plans, and annual reports at Our Reports.

2021 Adventurama: Fun Everywhere

2021 Adventurama: Fun Everywhere

On Saturday, September 11, 19 squads gathered at noon to take part in the annual Adventurama. The weather was perfect, and the costumes inspiring. Altogether, 95 adventurers strategized and followed the clues around Traverse City in the hopes of glory and treasure. We had 11 squads register in the Family Division, four in the Open Division, and, new this year, four squads in the Business Division.


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Everyone. We all win when we create more chances for more kids to participate in our active-for-life educational programs. We raised nearly $2,000 to put more kids on bikes.


Family Division

  1. Los Fuertes
  2. The Wheelies
  3. Despicable We

Open Division

  1. Unicorn Farts
  2. Bicy-kitties
  3. Excited2BHere

Business Division

  1. Eleventh STREET Mafia
  2. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  3. Peddlin Pig Unicorns


  • Best Individual Costume: The Flash from the Bald Eagles
  • Best team Costume: Gareissaurus
  • Wingman Award (Good Samaritans): Fantastic Mr. Fox & Despicable We

Thank you to all the teams for bringing the creativity and the adventurous spirit: Murphy Magic, Get to Cranking, Peddlin Pig Unicorn, Cipher’s Cyclists, Team Gareissaurus, The Wheelies, Excited2BHere, The Good, The Bad, and The Uncle, Crazy 8’s, Y-Force and YUR Mom, Fantastic Mr.Fox, Unicorn Farts, Los Fuertes, Despicable We, SHARKS!, Eleventh STREET MAFIA, Bicy-kitties, Trouble X3 Plus 1, and The Baints.

Thank you to The Workshop for hosting us another year and to Anne Schwartz Realtor Bayshore Re/Max for being our title sponsor. Also, thank you to contributing sponsors Copy Central, Traverse City Record-Eagle, Up.Bike, Great Lakes Stainless, and Bethany Design.

And, of course, thank you to our volunteers who made the event possible. Amanda, Michele, and Erin, The Event Folk, did an amazing job.


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Norte Welcomes Aaron Selbig to the Team

Norte Welcomes Aaron Selbig to the Team

Selbig brings decades of journalism and organizational experience to Norte’s communications efforts. 

Traverse City, MI. Norte has hired Aaron Selbig to fill their systems and communications coordinator position. His experience as a print and radio journalist, and his enthusiasm for cycling and walking, will support Norte’s mission of building happy, healthy, strong communities. Selbig has worked for more than 20 years in radio, newspapers, and magazines and brings proven skills in managing nonprofit operations.

“I am beyond excited to join Team Orange,” said Selbig. “As an avid cyclist, runner and hiker, I have always been a huge fan of the important advocacy work that Norte has done in our community. In addition, the programs Norte offers for young riders are crucial to building healthy futures for our kids. These are passionate people, and I am honored to be working with them and working to serve our community.”

Selbig most recently served as managing editor for Interlochen Public Radio. He helped the newsroom win numerous awards and achieved its goal of being a leading news voice for Northern Michigan. Previously, Selbig worked in radio and print in Alaska. He began his career as a reporter for the Anchorage Press and as host of “The Aaron Selbig Show.” He has won three Edward R. Murrow awards for his work in news and podcasting and a Liberty Award from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re thrilled to have Aaron join the team,” said Gary Howe, Advocacy and Communications Director at Norte. “We have a compelling story to tell here, and every day we’re changing lives. That story is told not only through traditional narratives, which Aaron is certainly effective at but also by pulling stories from the data our programs generate.”

The nonprofit has steadily grown since forming in 2015. This year, Norte will more than double the number of kids served, from 2,400 in 2020 to over 5,000 in 2021, through their education, encouragement, and direct service programming. This past spring, the Northern Michigan Regional Mountain Biking program represented 63 different schools from Leelanau to Emmet County.




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Following in the Bicycle Corps’ Tire Tracks

Following in the Bicycle Corps’ Tire Tracks

A Chat with Mike Brown

When Mike Brown’s friend Bill Gray approached him about a cross-country bike ride, Brown initially wasn’t sure. “My friend Bill has been talking about this for years. I just thought it was a pipe dream,” Brown said. “I really didn’t have an interest in it.”

Brown is a year two Rad Norte Business Champion with Burdco Incorporated. Brown has served as owner and president of Burdco since 1999 and his involvement with several community partners.

A self-proclaimed history buff, he found inspiration from a couple of patriotic sources to convince him. Firstly, Gray lent him a copy of a favorite book — Old Man on a Bicycle by former State Department official Don Petterson. With no substantial cycling experience, Petterson decided to set off from his New Hampshire home to reach the Golden Gate Bridge at seventy years old.

Reading Petterson’s account made a cross-country effort seem more feasible to Brown. “When I read that book, it made me realize that physically, you can do something like that,” Brown said. “It’s just one day at a time. It’s more about time, commitment, and just being willing to be uncomfortable for a time. That’s when I started considering [the cross-country ride].”

Secondly, the proposed route would closely follow the expedition ride of the all-Black members of the 25th Infantry Regiment — led by Lt. James A. Moss to deduce whether the bicycle could be a substitute for horses in warfare. 

The 25th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Bicycle Corps,” rode nearly 2,000 miles in 1897, setting off from Ft. Missoula in Montana for a 41-day ride to St. Louis, Missouri. Adventure Cycling magazine featured their route and story in its May 2011 issue. “Our trip was already well into the works, but once we saw this, we said, ‘Wow, this would be a neat way to commemorate them,’” Brown said. Brown was intrigued as he read of the challenges and triumphs they faced along the way.

“These guys were camping and carrying all their stuff. The bikes were high quality for that period, but there was no suspension or anything,” Brown said. “They went through the Missoula area mud and some real difficulties, but they kept at it and were persistent.”

To learn more about the Bicycle Corps, Brown suggests resources from Upworthy and HistoryNet. Montana PBS also produced a 2000 documentary, The Bicycle Corps: America’s Black Army on Wheels, available to stream for free.

With this inspiration in mind, Brown considered himself sold on the idea of a cross-country ride in February of 2020. The impending COVID-19 pandemic did not derail his and Gray’s plans. 

Brown suggested they first undertake a six-day trial run, which they completed last summer. Additionally, they have continued to train with rides on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas. Brown said that the prospect of the ride in the future kept him motivated in his training.

“I’m more of an event athlete — I need to have something that I can put in front of me, like this, to work towards,” Brown said. “I knew this would be in two years, so it really helped me step up my commitment to being a senior athlete.”

On Saturday, August 14th, the crew began following Adventure Cycling magazine’s Northern Tier route — approximately 2,100 miles in all. They expect to ride around 33 days, allowing time for sightseeing and rest as needed.

Brown has unique plans before they embark from Anacortes, Washington. “Friday, we’re going to do the goofy thing where we dip our bikes in the ocean. Then, we’ll begin our serious ride.”

Taking a cue from Petterson’s book, Brown has also thought of the ride as a way to push his limits. “[Bill] is 71; I’m 66. I’d say, philosophically, this is about putting another log on the fire. Trying to do something else in life that you haven’t done, and seeing if you can do it,” Brown said.

At Norte, we’re grateful for Mike Brown’s support of a vision for a healthier community. He adds his support of Norte to a long resume of community involvement. Brown serves on the boards of Goodwill Northern Michigan, the Discovery Center, the Grand Traverse YMCA, and Traverse Connect. He is also a 25-year member of the Traverse City Optimist Club and former Optimist of the Year.

We’re wishing happy trails to Mike, Bill, and all who will be undertaking this ride — interested in getting updates? You can follow Mike on Strava.



What’s on your to do list for fall? 🍁

What’s on your to-do list for fall?

There’s a ton of summer left, including four weeks of summer bike camp. Also, there are tons of days left to jump into Lake Michigan — August water temperatures are the best!

That said, I’m also starting to look to fall and the return to school. So here are my 11 reasons why fall is going to be great.

  • Northern Michigan Regional Youth Mountain Bike Team — Michigan’s largest MTB team, is now offered in 12 locations from Benzie to Emmet County.
  • Adventure Bike Club — now in 15 schools, ABC offers an exhilarating adventure to wrap up the school day.
  • Bikes for All — we’re partnering with four schools and hosting weekly meetups at the Clubhouse because everyone deserves to feel the freedom of riding.
  • Explore Academy — the once-a-week, six-week course introduces community planning and advocacy to the next generation of leaders.
  • Adventurama — bikes, treasure, and glory. This choose-your-adventure scavenger hunt on bikes raises funds for Norte’s youth scholarship fund.

  • Sunday Trail Rides — gear up for Ice Man or just hit the trails for a relaxing family ride. Sunday Trail Rides return when the colors start to change.
  • VIP Slow Roll — Super Friends and Business Champions, join with el Colectivo and the Otwell Hub members for our second VIP Slow Roll.
  • Walk and Roll Ambassadors — school ambassadors make safe routes fantastic routes. Ready to represent?
  • Northern Michigan Walks to School Day — every year, we add schools, and we’re blown away by the turnout. This year, join us on Wednesday, October 6.
  • Sidewalks Everywhere — by the fall, we’ll be walking on 3.5 miles of new sidewalk in Traverse City thanks to the Safe Routes to School grant.
  • Orange Everywhere — come late September, and through October, nothing beats the eye-popping color change in the trees. Get out there!

What are you looking forward to this fall? 

I hope you all can find ways to get outside with friends and family on a stroll or a roll.

Let’s roll!



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Patrick’s Heavy: The Numbers and Awards

Patrick’s Heavy: The Numbers and Awards

The riders put in the miles while their supporters generously supported their cause — putting smiles on more young riders’ faces. The 2021 Patrick’s Heavy Ride Ride with Friends raised $16,462 for Norte’s Youth Scholarship Fund. Well done, everyone. Well done. Thank you to the riders. Thank you to the donors. Thank you to the sponsors, including this year’s title sponsor, Common Good Bakery.

Here’s a recap of the numbers and awards for this year’s Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends. 


$16,612 was raised for Norte’s Youth Scholarship Fund by 45 riders. Seven women, 38 men, with the youngest heavy rider age 14 and the oldest 68. 

There were 317 unique donors with an average donation of roughly $53. 

Eight volunteers made the ride achievable and as comfortable as possible, by hauling gear, providing food, setting up camps, and cheering us along the way. Thank you, Polly, Steve, Curt, Paula, Amelia, Matt, Johanna, and Petra. 

Two marvelous sponsors. Thank you, Common Good Bakery and Traverse City Wine and Beers Tours.

Altogether, heavy riders rode approximately 5000 total miles on Saturday. We had 26 riders ride the 140 miles from Traverse City to the Bridge, and another 16 riders rode the 80 miles from Charlevoix. The team experienced only three flats.


As voted on by the team of heavy riders, we recognize Heath Day, Riding from Charlevoix, and Ryan Reiter, Riding from Traverse City, as Riders of the Day. They pulled the team through by taking the lead, staying positive, and remaining solid throughout the ride. Honorable mentions go to Sami Maldonado, Ben Price, Andy Weir, Brooke Dykhuis, Mike Debruyn, and Mary Kuhn.

As recognized by his peers, The Happiest Rider goes to Ted Roe. Always smiling. Always motivating. 

Most Senior Riders go to Bob Otwell, riding from Charlevoix, and Traverse City Commissioner Tim Werner, riding from Traverse City.  The Youngest Riders on the one-day tour were Brody Day, riding from Charlevoix, and Drew Cummings, riding from Traverse City. 

Appropriately, the Most Money Raised award goes to Patrick Cotant, who brought in $2,185 for 2021. In addition, honorable mentions go to Laura and Bob Otwell ($1,312), Ty Schmidt ($1,200), Tom O’Hagan ($1,100), and Chris Johnston ($1,025). And, we recognize Carter DeBruyn for raising the most funds by a youth rider ($625). Brody Day raised the second most ($325). Thank you, riders!


  • Bloodiest Knee Award, Tim Pulliam
  • Most Deformed Clavicle, Chris Johnston 
  • Good Samaritan, Lauren Dake, for taking care of Chris, and honorable mention to Juan Mo for taking care of Tim (see previous two awards)
  • Johnny on the Spot, Steve Stawski, and Matt Jones for helping Tim and Chris, and honorable mention to Patrick Cotant, Bob Otwell, and Latitude 45 Bike Shop in Petoskey for fixing flats
  • Best at Navigating Mill Creek Campground without a Map, Petra von Kulajta
  • Sketchiest Van Driver, Amelia Werner (We’ve never seen the Norte swag wagon handle curves so deftly — thanks, Amelia!)
  • Best Vegetable Chopper, BJ Ingwersen
  • Best Camp Cook, Johanna Schmidt
  • Best at Making Friends, a tie between Mira Dake and Afton Day
  • Mucho Loco Award, Jon Knott for riding to the bridge with us Saturday and then to Alpena Sunday and then back to TC on Monday. 400+ miles in 3days!


Below, we recognize the riders who have been with Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends through the years. We plan on seeing more of you for years to come. 

  • Four Years, including Pat’s inaugural heavy ride in 2018, goes to the OG himself, Patrick Cotant. Thank you for the inspiration, Patrick. 
  • Three Years — Dan Madion, Brad Pauly, Andy Weir, Heath Day, Cody Sovis, and Ty Schmidt
  • Two Years — Brad Hochstetler, Jeff Wentzloff, Brody Day, Sage Day, Kate White, Vince Mack, Tim Pulliam, Drew Cummins, Kent Mcneil, Dave Sunset Scott, and Steve Haskin


“Thank you again, looking forward to another adventure next year❤️❤️,” @cotantpatrick


If you’d like to donate to the 2021 Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends, it’s not too late to support one of the riders. If you’d like to join the ride in 2022, it’s never too early to start training. Mark your calendars for Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Thank you 🙏🏼



Board of Directors: July Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: July Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with June 8, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Put the Focus on Walking and Rolling to School

Put the Focus on Walking and Rolling to School

University of Michigan student’s thesis research hosted by local non-profit Norte.

At the end of this school year, Norte wants to know — how did you roll?

During July, Norte is hosting parent focus groups, asking Grand Traverse area families to share their experiences with walking or biking to school during the year. The focus groups will be facilitated by University of Michigan student and Norte Systems and Communications Coordinator Jessie Williams.

Williams, a Traverse City native, is a student in the Honors program of UM’s Program in the Environment and an incoming Master’s student at UM’s School for Environment and Sustainability. She is conducting the groups as part of her senior thesis project, “The Formation of Active Transportation Patterns Among Participants in Northwest Michigan’s Norte Youth Cycling.”

“It’s important as a community to see what needs aren’t being met, and how we can learn from the successes of the past to fill gaps in access,” Williams said. “Norte has a proven track record in helping communities improve access for folks of all abilities. This research will help to continue that momentum in building safe and active ways to get to school.”

The region has seen a significant increase in active commuting by students since Norte’s inception in 2013 — with approximately a 463% growth in student participation in Norte’s walk and bike school programs since their first year. Norte’s Eastern Elementary Walk and Roll Ambassador, Keelan McNulty, advocates for continued infrastructure and program improvement. He helps lead a daily neighborhood bike train throughout the school year.

“Norte has paved the way in our neighborhood for kids biking to school. We are the next generation of elementary students and parents keeping the tradition alive,” said McNulty. New infrastructure to Eastern Elementary is part of a $2.1 million Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant currently being implemented in Traverse City. “We’re thrilled to have plenty of new sidewalks and paths on our route to school. Over the last few years, the daily ride has just gotten better and better.”

Williams’ study aims to receive input from both those who make walking or biking a part of their routine and others who commute by car or another method. In addition, Williams said that it is imperative to hear from those who have factors limiting their ability to commute to school actively — such as safety, distance, or access to a bike.

The focus group sessions will be a unique opportunity to measure the impact of Norte’s Safe Routes to School grant-supported programming, which has a particular focus on encouraging safe and active commutes to school among kids. Norte’s Executive Director, Ty Schmidt, encourages parents and guardians to share their experiences with Norte programs and the community.

“First, we’re extremely proud of Jessie and look forward to learning a ton from her research,” said Schmidt. “I encourage everyone to participate and share their perspective on what it takes to get their children to school and how we, as a community, can make it better.”

The first Walk + Roll Focus Groups are already underway. You can join in-person focus groups every Friday in July at the Norte Wheelhouse at 12:30 pm or on Zoom on Monday nights. The Monday night online focus groups are at 7:00 pm and require pre-registration. If you’d like to register, email jessie@elgruponorte.org.  




Board of Directors: June Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: June Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with June 8, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

Support the 2021 Patrick’s Heavy Riders with a donation today!

On Saturday, July 31, a few dozen riders will set off for the Mackinaw Bridge. Some will leave Traverse City for a 140-mile tour, while others depart from Charlevoix for an 80-mile spin. They’ll share the goal of raising funds and awareness for Norte, but they’ll also share in the experience of testing oneself. It’ll be hot. There’s likely to be a headwind. It’s all part of the thrill for Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends.

Riders will also share the encouragement of riding with others, including the man who kicked off Patrick’s Heavy in 2017, Patrick Cotant. He’s a kind and humble man, not wanting attention, and we’re thankful he sat down with us recently to talk about the upcoming ride.

🚴🏻‍♀️  🚴🏽‍♂️  🚴🏻‍♂️

Norte: Thank you again for hosting the annual Patrick’s Heavy. To start, please tell us a little about you and your family? 

Patrick: We moved here about ten years ago from Gaylord. My wife, Polly, and I celebrate 13 years of marriage this week, and we have an 8-year-old son named Fletcher. We moved here for work, and we wanted to live in a more family-friendly, walkable, and bikeable community.

N: When did you discover Norte?

In 2015, Polly heard Ty speak at Fulfillament, a storytelling event here in Traverse City. He talked about his passion for getting kids on bikes and the beginnings of Norte. At the time, they were just a group of bike trains connecting kids to area schools. When Norte started balance bike meetups at F&M Park, we brought Fletcher, and his love of bikes took off. Polly soon started on the board, and we have both continued to participate and volunteer when we can.

N: What is Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends? 

I wanted to figure out a way to raise money for Norte in a way that was more than one person writing a check. I thought about it and put it out there to see if there was interest. If there was, then that could be an avenue to introduce others to Norte. I like riding bikes, and there are many groups in the area doing great things to raise money and awareness for causes like Kolo t.c. and fundraiser rides that have been around for years, such as Less Cancer. Those were my inspiration for doing a bigger bike ride for the fundraiser. I wanted something that would be challenging so that people would be like, ‘yeah, I’d donate to that cause, I think it’s a worthy endeavor,’ but also something that could bring more people in was the goal.

N: This ride will be your fourth. How has it evolved? 

The first year was solo and the hardest. I hadn’t ridden that far before. I didn’t know what to eat and drink along the way. I didn’t know how to pace myself. It was a good learning opportunity. I was motivated and excited to do it. And, I had to at that point—people had donated money.

I remember coming back into town along the TART Trail, and Ty was on one of the benches there. He started clapping. It was fun. We road the rest of the way. I got a little boost of energy the last few miles.

The last two years have been the most fun with other cyclists. Some of them I knew, but it is also a great way to meet people. I like the adventure, the challenge, and being out there being self-sufficient on a bike is liberating. It’s enjoyable.

N: What have you learned from the rides? 

You learn a lot about yourself and other things when you’re up to your max. For anyone, even if they ride a lot, it can be a lot of miles. Once you get past that 80-90 mile mark, things kind of change. I’ve learned to face adversity. Are you going to just fold up and stop? Or, are you going to summon the courage and the strength you need to do well and finish strong? To set a good example for your kids or whatever the case may be. That’s what I’ve taken from it. Focus on what you’re doing. You can do anything for a little bit. Set your sights on what’s ahead. The literal and figurative horizon.

N: You get a little philosophical talking about it. How does Patrick’s Heavy reflect on the goals of Norte‘s Youth Bike Programs? 

I saw a post today from the after-school Mountain Bike programs where one of the kids said, “Maybe our growth in our skills is a sign of success on its own.” That’s perfect. The after-school programs, with the coaches Norte has, I can’t speak for all of them, but they seem to be great people. Great motivators. They teach the kids to do the best they can and to give it their all. That in and of itself will make you feel successful and empower you to have confidence going forward. It’s a great thing for them to have as a lifelong skill.

N: How has Norte impacted your son? 

I think it has created independence. Fletcher is 8, and we have started to give him the freedom to range around and see his friends on the block. Yesterday we got home from soccer practice, and he wanted to go to the book store. He just went out to the garage; there was no, ‘are we driving or riding?’ If the weather is decent, he knows that riding is a good choice. He wants to ride his bike now. When he started, it could be a challenge. Now it’s what he loves to do.

N: What do you hope to get out of the fourth year?

There are already some people signed up. We have a more scenic route. Hopefully, now with more people vaccinated, we see more people participating. It would be great to raise $20–$25,000. Going forward, it’s somehting I look forward to continuing for years. Some people have said it is their favorite ride they’ve done. Again probably because it is a long ride and a big accomplishment for anyone; if you ride 140 miles, you should be proud of that. And, hopefully, enjoy it because that’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, we have the participation needed to continue to keep raising funds for Norte.

N: Why you? 

I just wanted to do something for an organization that meant something for Polly and me. Norte has helped many young people. Specifically, because Norte got our kid involved in his first group activity with other kids in a lifelong sport, that’s my motivation.

Registration for Patrick’s Heavy with Friends is $35, requiring $200 from pledges. The sooner you register, the sooner you start training. Group training is held every Saturday at 7:00 am, leaving Darrow Park in Traverse City.

COVID POLICY: Norte is committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We confidently deliver programs and events because our staff and families follow preventive measures and monitoring protocols for COVID-19. We also generally look out for each other and stay outside as much as possible. If you are unvaccinated, please wear a mask. We encourage everyone eligible to vaccinate as soon as possible. If you are not feeling well, please join us the next time when you feel better. Let’s work together and #stopthespread.

Board of Directors: May Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: May Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with May 11, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Roll on with Eats by Bike Week

Roll on with Eats by Bike Week

Grab a bike, an Eats by Bike Week bingo card from Norte and hit local Businesses Champions for tasty eats.

As Northern Michigan Bike Month hits its mid-way mark, Norte invites everyone to join them in celebrating good eats accessible by bike. Eats by Bike Week is May 17 – 21 and encourages individuals to support the local restaurants and cafes that help Norte put more kids on bikes through their Business Champions program.

“The concept is straightforward. Visit elgruponorte.org to download your Eats by Week bingo card (PDF), then saddle up and hit up our region’s great eateries,” said Wes Sovis, Norte’s Donor Relations Specialist. “I can’t wait to see how many of them I can visit and dive into. I might need to ride a bit farther that week to work some of it off.”

In addition to combining the simple pleasure of biking with supporting local businesses, participants also have the chance to win prizes from Norte’s merchandise store. “To be entered to win a Norte Prize Pack, participants must submit a photo of their sweet eats to Norte — either through tagging us in a public post on social media or by emailing it to us,” added Sovis. Norte also offers a bonus Norte cowbell to everyone who submits five photos to achieve a “bingo” on their card.

Bike Month began in 1956 by The League of American Bicyclists to display the many benefits of bicycling and encourage others to get rolling. This year’s theme is #BikeThere to promote the everyday tasks accomplished on a bike. Norte’s Eats by Bike Week from May 17-21 exemplifies the #BikeThere credo while demonstrating the purchasing power of those who bike for everyday tasks.

To make the most out of Bike Month, Norte offers the following reminders.

  • Give your bike a tune-up and get in early as local bike shops get busy quickly.
  • Obey the rules of the road and ride with respect for others. We’re all in this together.
  • Make sure your bike has working lights. You never know when you’ll need them.

For a complete list of activities for Northern Michigan Bike Month, visit Norte’s website at elgruponorte.org. On their website, you can also peruse Norte’s Wall of Champions, a list of businesses that support the organization with donations.

Download your Eats by Bike Week Bongo card and #BikeThere (PDF)



Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) strongly recommends continued effort to stop the spread. The following steps need to be taken together for the best protection.
  • Health Check – Self-monitor and stay home if you’re feeling sick.
  • Wear a mask – Take it off when you eat or drink, then put it back on, even outside.
  • Physically Distanced – Keep six feet apart as much as you can.
  • Wash Hands – Wash hands regularly. 20 seconds with soap and water.

Norte also supports socializing outside in well-ventilated areas and getting a vaccine as soon as available.  If we all work together, we will beat this pandemic.

Celebrate Northern Michigan Bike Month

Celebrate Northern Michigan Bike Month

During May, Norte has almost daily activities to encourage more people to go outside and roll with the organization’s spin on National Bike Month. Join us, #BikeThere

With spring in the air and the snow finally at an end, Norte invites individuals in Northern Michigan to experience the joy of getting out for a bike ride. Norte‘s Executive Director, Ty Schmidt, urges everyone to lean into Bike Month and try riding a bike for everyday tasks.

“Every day, people across the globe, many of them right here in Michigan, prove daily that the bicycle remains one of the most efficient, accessible, convenient, and safe ways to stay active and get things done,” said Schmidt. “I hope folks use Bike Month to develop a habit of biking to school or work, running to the store, going to the dentist, or getting their vaccination. Bikes are an expression of freedom.”

Norte‘s May calendar is rolling with opportunities for families to participate at all skill levels and confidence. The month kicks off on Sunday, May 2, with the annual Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale. This event runs from 11 am–2 pm outside at the Norte Wheelhouse in the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. Norte will have donated bikes for sale, and for $10, individuals may sell their own.

“If you don’t have a bike, don’t let that stop you from experiencing Bike Month,” said Schmidt. “The yard sale is a great opportunity to find a perfect bike to keep you rolling throughout the summer, into fall, and beyond.”

2021 Bike Month PosterClick for the 2021 Bike Month poster (PDF)

Other highlights of the Bike Month include Bike to School Day on May 5, Take a Mom Mountain Biking on May 9, and 24 Hours at the Civic Center from noon on Saturday, May 15 to noon on Sunday, May 16. The latter is what Schmidt calls a “move-a-thon,” where individuals pledge to walk, run, or roll around the one-mile long Civic Center track for 30 minutes out of 24 hours. Participants pledge $20 and encourage others to donate to their cause. The funds raised are invested back into Norte‘s youth programming and improvements at the Civic Center.

Bike Month began in 1956 by The League of American Bicyclists to put on display the many benefits of bicycling and encourage others to get rolling. This year’s theme is #BikeThere to promote the everyday tasks accomplished on a bike. #BikeThere is exemplified by Norte with Eats by Bike Week from May 18-21. Norte will provide a bingo card of local restaurants and encourage individuals to visit as many of them as possible while wearing their orange Norte gear and, of course, arriving by bicycle.

To make the most out of Bike Month, Norte offers the following reminders.

  • Give your bike a tune-up and get in early as local bike shops get busy quickly.
  • Obey the rules of the road and ride with respect for others. We’re all in this together.
  • Make sure your bike has working lights. You never know when you’ll need them.



Let’s Roll! 



Safe and Responsible

Board of Directors: April Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: April Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with April 13, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Board of Directors: March Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: March Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with March 9, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Attracted by a Desire to Help

Jessie Williams in the Norte Clubhouse

Last January, I decisively told myself that I didn’t know what I would do for Summer 2020. This is definitively unlike me. I’m someone who maintains a spreadsheet of my plans through the next four years. As it turns out, even if I had made plans for last summer, they likely would have been canceled.  Like many college students last spring, I unexpectedly found myself at home taking Zoom classes.

As the pandemic grew larger and summer approached, I knew I wanted to do something as impactful as my job as a Resident Advisor on campus. I needed something that tangibly helped people during the challenges of 2020. Then, I saw a listing for an AmeriCorps VISTA hosted through United Way.

I’d previously heard about AmeriCorps through my friend Eva, who spent a year in Petrolia, California, as a VISTA. Her work seemed similar to what I missed about my work as an RA — planning ways to help people, encourage healthy behaviors, and positively change the community around me. From my first chats with Ranae McCauley of United Way and Ty, I knew and hoped that Norte was the place for me to spend my summer helping people do the most good.

I had some prior experience with Norte, which isn’t typically the case for everyone considering being a VISTA. As a Traverse City native, I’d used Norte’s Very Orange bike racks more times than I could count. I’d also always noticed that everywhere something remarkable was going on, Norte was a part of it. There were bike valets at Concerts on the Lawn, and a rainbow-colored Slow Roll at Pride Week. All my favorite businesses happened to be Norte Business Champions. This was promising. 

As an Environment major, I was 100% on board for helping Norte with the radical and important work of teaching future generations a zero-emissions way to get around their community — and how to do so on their own two feet. I’d learned my way around Traverse City by walking and biking it, but not every student had that same opportunity.

When I started as a VISTA, I was introduced to Summer Bike Camp’s excitement and commotion, along with the Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Library. The Bike Library was a project that directly fit my interests. I would be recycling bikes between kids to get them moving in a way that fits their needs, their families’ resources aside.

Through my daily work with the Bike Library, I’ve met many incredible people, colleagues, and patrons. While developing my database management and project management skills, I learned how to determine relevant metrics and design tracking systems that were simple and user-friendly. My experience sending out and analyzing survey results from both the Bike Library and Summer Bike Camp has made me feel one step ahead of my upcoming senior thesis project, with real-world surveying already under my belt.

More than the academic skills I took away from my Norte VISTA experience, I’ve appreciated the overwhelming and astounding positivity of Norte as a work environment and as an organization. I’ll never forget some of the moments from my summer as a VISTA. I witnessed tears of joy when I was able to find a green bike for a young boy. I walked in on a Summer Bike Camp team, making up a cheer for the fun of it. I shared a young rider’s first jubilant pedal away from the Wheelhouse on a “New Bike Day.”

Lastly, being a Norte VISTA changed the way I view the community around me. I take more notice of my commutes that had previously been more destination-oriented than memorable. I’ve realized that I’m in the minority by having sidewalks and bike lanes to keep me protected where I most frequently travel. It also brings the biggest smile to my face when I see kids and their guardians riding or walking together. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll see them in a Norte program soon.

If you’re like me a year ago, thinking about what you want to get up to this coming summer, consider becoming an Americorps VISTA for Norte. It’s an opportunity to do much more than ride bikes — though you’ll definitely have that opportunity. As a VISTA for Norte, you’ll have a chance to learn new skills, witness greatness,  and connect with a community of people striving for happy, healthy, strong for all. 


Email Jessie if you want to learn more about being a VISTA for Norte


In addition to VISTA opportunities, Norte has several opportunities to join Team Orange open. Currently, we’re seeking a year-round, part-time Bike Mechanic. The right candidate will manage the Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Library, Community Bike Shop at the Clubhouse, and Essential transportation program. We’re also looking for seasonal staff and coaches, including Youth Mountain Bike Team Coaches, Adventure Bike Club Coaches, Summer Bike Camp Coaches.

Finally, we need volunteer assistant coaches for Mountain Bike TeamBikes for All, and ABC. These positions are an excellent fit for individuals looking to build some coaching skills before taking on a team of their own in the future. We can start you as a volunteer for as little as one day a week.

Safe and Responsible


Meet the Newest Members to Team Orange

Donor Relations Specialist Wes Sovis

Norte recently welcomed Wes Sovis to the Norte Staff as their Donor Relations Specialist. The youth-focused organization also added three new members to the Board of Directors, Jim Witte, Sue Paul, and Eric Mannix.

As Donor Relations Specialist, Sovis will manage fundraising and engagement activities supporting Norte’s youth programs, community outreach, and advocacy. His marketing and communications experience will fortify Norte’s foundation as it experiences rapid growth across the region.

“I’m thrilled to help Norte bring the benefits of bicycles, active lifestyles, and a more connected community to Northern Michigan,” said Sovis. “I hope to support our team so that we can be more efficient as fundraisers, develop more meaningful relationships with our donors, and, ultimately, have a bigger impact on the lives of thousands of people in our region.”

Q+M Agency formerly employed Sovis as an Account Executive. He was also the Digital Communications Manager for the Michigan Society of Association Executives.


2021 New Board Members, Jim Witte, Eric Mannix, and Sue Paul

Norte’s newest board members, from left to right, Jim Witte, Sue Paul, and an exhausted Eric Mannix.


In addition to staff growth, Norte recently welcomed three new board members. Eric Mannix of Traverse City, Jim Witte of Elk Rapids, and Sue Paul of Pennisula Township joined Norte’s Board of Directors at the February meeting. Directors serve three-year terms.

“I believe that it is an incredible achievement what Norte has accomplished in a very short time,” said Witte. “The Norte model is well-positioned to replicate and diversify in many areas. Developing specific and strategic plans for project and product implementation is an area that I have helped business clients achieve. I believe I can offer some of that same thinking for Norte initiatives.”

Norte’s Board of Directors adopted a two-year strategic plan in 2020, focusing on four primary areas for advancement:

  1. Active for Life Kids
  2. Happy, Healthy, Strong Communities
  3. Grassroots Advocacy
  4. A Leveled-Up Team Orange

The organization’s specific focus over the next two years is happy, healthy, strong initiatives for everyone. New board members will help guide accessibility, equity, and inclusion efforts for Norte programs and governing.

“As the mother of a special needs daughter, I’m thrilled to know Norte is working to accommodate and include this segment of our community,” said Paul. “I think my family’s personal experience, along with my training as an occupational therapist, can be beneficial to this organization.”

Mannix may be a new board member, but he’s no stranger to Norte. On June 27, 2020, he raised over $3,000 to put more kids on bikes in Eric’s Heavy Ride. On that day, Mannix biked over 100 miles and climbed over 11,000 feet in elevation on the Vasa Trails. He brings that same proactive, high energy to the board.

“I see Norte evolving more and more towards active–for–life and healthy lifestyle advocacy,” said Mannix. “While I believe the connection of Norte and bicycles will remain, Norte is striving to achieve its reach to attract more than just people on bikes. I see Norte reaching the young and old and inspiring them to be their best active self. I want to contribute to making that impact thoughtfully and expeditiously.”

Safe and Responsible

Summer Internships at Norte

A summer summer intern smiling.

We’re seeking 2021 Summer Interns to join Team Orange. We have both paid and unpaid, full and part-time internships available. 

Submit Applications by 5 pm, February 28, 2021

Do you have a passion for healthy, happy, and strong active living? Interested in what it’s like to work in the nonprofit field?

Applications at Norte are open now for summer internships and one AmeriCorps VISTA spot. We offer one paid internship and internships for college credit, depending on what best meets your needs.

We’re looking for enthusiastic community advocates who are good with kids and ready to roll into our busy summer camp season. Learn more and apply today at:

Norte Summer Internships


Happy healthy Strong

Registration Open For Norte’s 2020 Explore Academy

Norte’s Explore Academy once  again invites teens to learn and use their voice to shape their community.

Norte’s advocacy program is again offering teens a unique opportunity to explore their community and develop their own voice in shaping it. The Explore Academy is a six-week, student-informed practical course featuring an experiential understanding of how communities are planned, built, and changed over time.

“Explore is an excellent opportunity for teenagers to step out into the community and develop not only their understanding of how the community works – or doesn’t work – but also develop their voices and skills to work towards making the positive changes they see that are needed,” said Norte Advocacy Director, Gary Howe. Howe once again is teaming up with the owner of Parallel Solutions, Megan Olds, to facilitate the fall program.

Norte’s Explore Academy is open to all 13 to 18-year-olds interested in community leadership, planning, and development. Students will graduate with a heightened understanding of decision-making processes and advanced observational and communication skills. This year’s interactive sessions will be held online and include frequent break out sessions. Guest speakers will offer expertise and insight as students develop their interests. Last year’s session featured TART Trails Executive Director, Julie Clark, and BATA’s Transportation Planner and Planning Commissioner, Tyler Bevier. Some of the class meetups will be in-person physically distanced walking conversations—masks required for safety.

“In light of an ongoing public health crisis, continued community protests and marches, coastal flooding, wildfires, and against the backdrop of a national election, this year’s program is primed for some deep exploration and conversations focused on how design, policies, and investments in places impact and are impacted by these conditions,” said Olds. “I’m looking forward to hearing students’ thoughts and observations about whom and what they see impacted, how decisions are made, and what types of design and investments they feel matter most and why.”

The program’s weekly meetups begin September 28 and meet on Mondays from 4:30 to 5:30. The six sessions include an additional four-weeks of independent teamwork. The program costs $35 per participant, with plenty of scholarships available.   The 2020 Explore Academy is underwritten by the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR) and a Smart Growth Grant from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The Norte advocacy training program introduces teenagers to smart growth principles through its hands-on, active curriculum. Children of TAAR members are eligible for free registration.

“We’re excited to have the support of TAAR and their national partner, NAR. Their support allows us to offer an adaptable curriculum to more students by virtually eliminating any financial burden,” said Howe. “In response to the pandemic, we’ve needed to adapt the structure of the course, but not the key goals. Explore remains an engaging exploration of the neighborhoods of the Grand Traverse Region while doing our part to keep everyone safe, healthy, and to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

For more information and to register for Norte’s 2020 Explore Academy, please visit: Norte Explore Academy.

If you have questions about the program and for scholarship information, please contact Gary Howe at gary@elgruponorte.org.

If you’d like to make a $35 donation to sponsor a student, please go to https://elgruponorte.org/donations/explore/.

# # #
Norte | Happy. Healthy. Strong.  

Program Facilitators  

Megan Olds has dedicated her 20-year career to community growth and development, land and water conservation and restoration, food and farming systems, housing, transportation, and access to nature and outdoor recreation. She was a former Director of Regional Planning at Networks Northwest and served as a past board member of the Michigan Association of Planning and Michigan’s Complete Streets Advisory Council. She worked for seven years as the Associate Director and Director of Development for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. Pairing her professional experience in community and organizational development with a personal zeal for building trust and clarity in decision-making, Megan founded Parallel Solutions in 2014. You can find out more about her firm’s services, clients, and recent projects at www.parallelmi.com.

Gary Howe brings over ten years of direct experience in creating and advocating for public policy and planning processes that support healthy transportation and socially-engaging public spaces to his role as Norte’s Advocacy Director. He served as a City Commissioner for the City of Traverse City from 2013-2017, in addition to serving on the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, and on the boards of Neahtawanta Center, SEEDS, and International Affairs Forum. He is also a writer and New York Times-published photographer with over 20 years of teaching experience in China, Taiwan, and Traverse City, including 15 years as an adjunct instructor at Northwestern Michigan College.