On Watermelon Candies

I interviewed Elyse Bejasa about her experience in the industry, during the scholarship, and how that affected her life after she returned to Dashing Bicycles in New Orleans to put her new skills to use. Bejasa currently races for Urban South Racing p/b Rouler and collaborated with NOLA Cx creating a new cross event called BAWSECross that focuses on skillbuilding and inclusion of all groups of people, explicitly inviting those new to the sport.

 
 
Bejasa also made sure I never missed a day of class(more on this in a later note), organized our study sessions with Laura Solis, and got in her cyclocross workouts nearly every day of the scholarship. Elyse also contributed an article to PrettyDamnedFast(another 2016 scholarship winner’s blog - Anna Maria, you can read more about her here) about the experience in last year’s scholarship class, you can check it out here for the full run-down of 2017. Even now, she’s the glue behind all of the 2017 winners staying in contact, organizing chats and continuing to reach out to each and every one of them(us).
 
BV: Which class were you? And how many years did you apply before winning the scholarship?
EB: This was my first year applying because I had never worked at a shop before. My background is in non-profit fundraising... I want to eventually marry the two skillsets. I was the class of 2017, the year of the Lettuce Yeti.
 
BV: What was the most helpful skill or trick that you learned during the scholarship?
EB:"Heads up, stays up" when lacing wheels. Might get it tattooed on my forehead...
 
The view, while studying, from the Ashland Commons.
The view, while studying, from the Ashland Commons.
 
BV: What impacted you the most about your experience?
EB: The people. It's amazing to be in a room with 15 other female-identifying/gender-nonconforming folk who want to build communities in their hometowns. It's electrifying and inspiring. Whenever I feel down, like the industry is not for us, [when] people don't appreciate the hard work, I think about my classmates and how they really lifted me up and made me want to keep keepin' on.
Whenever I feel down, like the industry is not for us, [when] people don't appreciate the hard work, I think about my classmates and how they really lifted me up and made me want to keep keepin' on.
BV: Where are you now?
EB: I'm at the same bike shop[Dashing Bicycles], but I work more steadily now. I am more confident to take a bike down off the rack and out of the queue to work on. I'm also leading more workshops, helping people get a better understanding of their bikes.
 
BV: What piece of advice can you give to the hopeful women applying this year?
EB: Enjoy the two weeks. It goes by fast and I guarantee it will be life-changing. Don't EVER be afraid to ask questions, your teachers are AWESOME and are a wealth of knowledge. Don't second guess yourself. You're already a step ahead.
 
BV: Any last thoughts?
EB: I wish I could enter again. This scholarship changed my life and my outlook on where I saw myself in the world of biking. The people I met, the relationships we built, they made me realize that there's so much work to do but there are so many great people out there doing it.
The people I met, the relationships we built, they made me realize that there's so much work to do but there are so many great people out there doing it.
EB: Also. Please ask Nate and Matt to do their dances. And they are easily bribed with watermelon candies from the co-op.