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ing that whoever’s the baddest and the toughest and whoever can act the hardest is the one who’s going to succeed in life. You have to earn their respect—but the only way you’re going to earn it is if you don’t let ‘em punk you.”

Sometimes the kids get into fights with each other, and on a few occasions, have tried to fight Patrick. Admittedly a laid-back guy, the kids challenge him to enforce more civil conduct. The job can be fun, he says he loves it, but some days it tests his patience. Fortunately, some of the older kids have taken on leadership roles among the group, too. One high school senior, Carlos, is known as the “head honcho.”

“You just make it known that you’re going to be here, so you might as well deal with it,” Orozco says. “Eventually they just started warming up to us and had fun. Some days it’s off, some days it’s on, but just because we have an off day doesn’t mean we should quit.”

Whether six or 26 kids show up, bike polo always brings with it the spirit of fun and camaraderie, and injects a light-hearted attitude into the tense atmosphere of Bakersfield’s poorest neighborhood.

“It’s an incredible experience and I need to go back and see how they’re doing,” says DeLaCerda, who is now working for Immersed in the Wild, a wilderness program for at-risk children in nearby Springvale. “I felt like we are—whoever is out there working with them—we make a huge impression on these kids. We would always leave there kind of giddy, riding our bikes away thinking, ‘In ten years, what do you think Treyvon’s gonna be like? What about Tyrone?’ We have fun thinking that because we’re doing what we’re doing we have the opportunity to steer them in a different direction. The best part of it was just being a part of these kids lives.”