SAN ANTONIO – One San Antonio man’s life has always centered on riding his bike, which is why he now uses his skills to repair and fix bikes as a way to educate young adults and children on important life lessons.
Dante Jones, a former Navy language analyst, said some of his fondest memories were when he was a child riding his bike with his brothers.
“Whenever our dad would come and pick us up, he would take us on bike rides in Indianapolis and throughout the streets and we would help strangers broken down on the side of the road, pick up trash and just try to help to make things better,” Jones said.
He grew up in a single parent home after his parents got divorced.
“My mom made it work,” Jones said. “She was working with two jobs and doing it and was able to keep us out of trouble. Those belts worked,” he said through laughter.
During that time, Jones, who was very into his academic studies, experienced issues with bullying.
“I was a big big nerd,” Jones said. “I got made fun of. I got beat up. Acne. Big glasses. The whole nine yards. I didn’t have the best clothes growing up with a single parent. I remember we were staying in a basement that had mildew in it and I wasn’t showering but when kids started clowning me about how my clothes were smelling, I made sure I learned how to wash clothes.”
Jones said his ability to be good at sports helped him stop the bullying happening to kids around him.
“I was great at sports and some of the players on the team were bullies,” Jones said. “So when they saw I would hang out with the kids they would bully, then that began to change.”
As he got older, Jones began to use his love for learning to shape what would soon be his career.
“Going to school, I studied many languages,” Jones said. “I learned Spanish really well and even Chinese in high school.”
He then went off to join the Navy, where he became a language analyst.
“I got to explore the world,” Jones said. “I learned so much about communicating with people and became passionate about perfecting that to help others in different languages.”
At that time, Jones found himself getting in trouble with certain aspects of his life.
“I was taking advantage of people,” Jones said. “All the trouble I was going through was either stuff that was happening in my childhood that I hadn’t dealt with or stuff that I was causing and blaming on other people. The hardest muscle for me to learn was pointing the finger at myself.”
His fascination evolved from bikes to old model cars.
“I wasted tons of money on cars,” Dante said. “I had a car for every day of the week. They were mostly old school cars from the '60's that I would fix up and show off at car shows around town. I didn't own a credit card, so everything was paid for in cash which was a blessing and a curse.”
Jones also got himself in a custody battle with his ex.
“My daughter's mother was making poor decisions and placing my baby girl in very dangerous situations, so I was determined to fight for custody of her,” Jones said. "That was a defining moment in my life. I had already been through '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' in the military, and I had begun to live my life based upon the principles taught during the course. Choosing to make sure that my daughter would grow up in a safe and loving environment, versus leaving her in a situation that would have led to her becoming a statistic.”
Since then, Jones began using his communication skills for good and for the sake of his children.
In 2010, he began R.O.L.L. Models, which stands for respect, obedience, love and leadership. It is an organization dedicated to teaching life skills to children and teens through activities that involve wheels.
“Whether it is a bike, skates, or skateboards, we are there for them,” Jones said. “We help them fix and customize their own bikes that they have imagined so that it can look like something you couldn’t buy in a store.”
He said this was all sparked from him seeing a need in the community.
“78207 being one of the most underfunded zip codes in the nation, I'm just not ready to give up on it. I want to do anything I possibly can,” Jones said. “I would ride my bike with my daughters and we would ride and the kids would come out just running from nowhere and I didn’t see any dads around. They would come out and I didn’t care because I love kids anyways... Initially, they were just running along with us while we rode and then I started gathering bikes, fixing them up and bring them for kids to ride.”
R.O.L.L. Models operates out of the Frank Garrett Community Center near West End Park and operates off of donations from the community and local organizations such as Wild Dawgs Bicycle Club and other great resources. He said the goal is to get the youth to not expect anything but to work for it.
“We don’t believe in just giving bikes to our children,” Jones said. “You have to earn it. Most likely if something is given to you, you are not going to take care of it but once you fix bikes and work on bikes and earn, then you are more and likely to respect it. Rolling has a key element which requires balance and balance is what life is about and once you are able to sustain that balance in your life, it makes life easier for you.”
Jones said his ultimate goal is get the youth to dream big in every aspect of life.
“My dream is to have young entrepreneurs trained by ROLL Models utilizing their gifts and talents to create a sustainable living for not only their family but generations to come. I teach the kids -- look, you can start off here with bikes but that is just the vessel to get you started on your journey to the next location.”
If you know someone like Jones who is making a difference in the South Texas community or who has a unique story, send us your tips. Contact Japhanie Gray on Facebook or @JGrayKSAT on Twitter. You can also send your tips to KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Facebook.