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Arnold School of Public Health


Exercise Science student cycles to make a difference in fair and affordable housing

February 12, 2016

The below story was written by Mary Ramsey and is republished here from The Daily Gamecock.

Most college students spend their summers waiting tables, participating in internships and catching up with family and friends from back home. Fourth-year exercise science student Morgan Durand spends her summers biking hundreds of miles in the name of fair housing.

Durand is involved with the non-profit Bike & Build, which sends young adults ages 18-26 on cycling trips that double as opportunities to volunteer building homes across the country.

Justin Villere, who serves as the organization's senior director of operations and development, explained that the trips provide a unique avenue for young people to get involved in service.

"Bike & Build envisions future generations of Americans who are committed to a lifetime of civic engagement and who inspire individuals and communities to create fair, decent housing for all Americans," Villere said. "We feel that cycling trips are a unique and exciting way to do this, allowing young adults the chance to experience the country with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure."

According to Villere, about 320 riders are sent out by the group each year.

Durand became involved with the organization through a friend who had participated in a ride. She had experience with the fair housing cause from volunteering with Habitat for Humanity while in high school, and as an avid cycler she was also intrigued by the challenge.

"I did Habitat for Humanity a lot in high school," Durand said. "The original draw for Bike & Build for me was this is an awesome adventure ... I get to cycle across the country. I love cycling, this is awesome. The first build day was at the first place we stayed, so we hadn't even biked, and that was the moment I realized ... the affordable housing cause is so much bigger than the adventure I'm about to have. The trip went from cycling every day and having fun ... to we're focusing on going from build day to build day, changing these people's lives."

The summer after her second year at USC, Durand participated in a cross-country ride from Florida to California with Bike & Build.

"The very, very, very best day of my life was the day I got to Monterey and then I was done," Durand said. "But I think the most rewarding part is you go into this trip, you go into this experience that you're about to have and you have so much uncertainty ... and you learn so much about yourself and you learn what you are capable of. It's so much more than anyone ever thinks. So I think the most rewarding part of it is all of the ... self-awareness and reflection that you get from it, and just really learning who you are."

After graduating this May, she will serve as a leader of this year's Bike & Build Coastal Drift, a multi-week ride through the East Coast. She will lead approximately 30 riders along with other group leaders who have experience on rides. She described the number of hours that will go into planning the trip as "countless."

"I'm starting now and my job won't be done until we finish the trip," Durand said.

Durand, who is also president of the triathlon club at USC, acknowledged the intense physical requirements of rides like these.

"You can't really prepare for every single day on a bike, but every rider is required to do 500 hours of cycling before they get there," Durand said. "Two of the rides they do need to be more than 65 miles."

While rides of this length may not be doable as Durand prepares to leave college and enter a new phase in her life, she plans to fulfill the mission of Bike & Build by staying committed to the cause of fair housing.

"Even if I don't get to do another Bike & Build trip again," Durand said, "I want to continue to work with Habitat for Humanity or any affordable housing organization that's where I live."