It’s roughly 1,700 miles from the Canadian border to the Mexican border along the Pacific coast on a bicycle – that’s roughly 1,700 reasons to quit, yet also 1,700 reasons to keep going.
Britney Meshke, a Cal State San Bernardino senior majoring in entrepreneurial management with an economics minor, chose to keep going, pedaling through the rain and hills and remembering why she was making the journey in the first place.
From June 20 to July 20, save for three rest days, Meshke rode her bike to raise money for Michelle Rogers, a San Bernardino High School teacher who puts together programs and workshops to help young girls bolster their own self image and confidence, and not let society or popular media dictate what it thinks it should be.
In other words, being like supermodel Kate Moss does not necessarily define success.
It’s an issue that doesn’t seem to be talked about much. Yet sit with Meshke, and she’ll tell you that it not only needs to be talked about, but also fixed.
While teaching snowboarding this past winter, she said, “I had probably three different girls come up to me at different times – they were no older than 5 – and they asked me if they looked fat in their jackets. I think that’s ridiculous that it’s already happening at that young age.”
As a member of the Kappa Delta sorority at CSUSB, Meshke had done some work with Rogers, volunteering at some of the events Rogers organized for area girls. Meshke also noticed that Rogers spent much of her own resources for these events – which included bringing in guests, such as Judith Valles, former San Bernardino mayor, and others to speak about being positive role models and to teach them life skills. Rogers also makes herself available after school for the girls.
“I think what Michelle Rogers does is a good thing, so that’s why I wanted to help,” said Meshke, a graduate of Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead who now lives in San Bernardino.
Said Rogers, “This is the first time that I had somebody inspired to raise money for this.”
Not that it would be easy. In her blog, “Going the Distance for CONFIDENCE,” Meshke chronicled her journey, which was supported by her aunt, Amanda Cole Veysey, who drove ahead of her on the route in an SUV.
The trip started with a string of rainy days in Washington and Oregon, and included some long climbs and just long days on the bike that averaged six to seven hours and about 60 miles a day. A sore knee a couple days into the ride was cause for some concern, too.
But every now and then, something would happen to remind her that what she was doing was going to make a difference.
“Even just the little things when I was biking, I’d be at a stoplight, and there’d be a little girl in the back of a car, and she’d smile at me and I’d smile back,” Meshke said. She recalled the time she was at a laundromat to dry her rain-soaked gear, and having a conversation with a father-to-be about his 7-year-old niece being as self-conscious about her appearance as someone much older – they both agreed that wasn’t something a 7-year-old should worry about.
And the one time, when she stopped for lunch and two young girls and their little brother sat and talked with her, curious about what she was doing. Being astonished that Meshke would ride a bike that far, they said they could never think about doing something like it themselves. “Don’t say that,” Meshke told them. “You can do whatever you set your mind to do.”
That, Rogers said, is what makes Meshke’s effort so special – it’s a real example to the girls she works with that they, too, can achieve great things if they set their mind to it and work to overcome any obstacles and challenges that they encounter along the way.
The teaching lesson from this, Rogers said, is “if you have a vision for something, just go for it and make it happen.”
Which is exactly what Meshke would tell anyone else thinking of tackling a challenge, whatever it may be.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I was going to be able to do it, but it was something I wanted to do, so I did it,” she said. “I’m really glad I did. It did build up my confidence in myself to be able to take on the next challenges I want to do. I can push through, I can do what I set my mind to.”
Those interested can still donate to Rogers’ confidence program at the Building Confidence in Young Women website.
For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.