Joi McClain & Kellen von Hoven, Trailnet Champions


Joi McClain & Kellen von Hoven, Trailnet Champions

Here at Trailnet, we wouldn’t be able to conduct majority of our events nor our advocacy work around this community without the dedication of our volunteers and staff members. Whether they are spending their weekends out on the trail for a Bicycle Fun Club ride or spending Monday – Friday downtown assisting with membership entry and ride registration – our team is stronger thanks to these dedicated individuals. For this month’s Trailnet Champion, we wanted to say a special thank you to not one, but two incredible members of our team.

18 year-old Joi McClain and 17 year-old Kellen von Hoven could be spending their summer months embracing their lack of schoolwork and sleeping in, but instead they decided to trade in their school desks for office ones by working at Trailnet this summer. They have been assisting our office with administrative tasks as well as working the Bicycle Fun Club rides. Before heading back to school this August, our Marketing and Communication Manager, Jeanette Harris-Courts, had the chance to sit down and have a chat with these two ambitious and active community members. Between discussing what it’s like working for Trailnet and learning what these St. Louis natives do for fun (besides advocating for cyclist and pedestrian safety) — no topic was left unsaid during an interview at the Kaldi’s in City Garden this past July. 

Jeanette Harris-Courts: Good Morning guys! Let’s start with the basics. Tell me a little bit about yourselves. Where do you guys live and where do you currently go to school?

Kellen von Hoven: I live on a private street right at the edge of the city in the Central West End. I love my neighborhood and living in the Central West End, especially with all of the incredible restaurants to visit nearby. I currently attend MICDS [Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School] where I’ll be a Junior this upcoming fall.

Joi McClain: And I live in the Florissant neighborhood. To know my neighborhood is to love it. It’s quiet, but full of life and kindness. It is it’s own world inside St. Louis. I just graduated from Metro [Academic and Classical High School] and will be heading to Washington, D.C. to start my Bachelor’s in Computer Science at Howard University, with a minor in Spanish…possibly a double minor in Creative Writing. I’m not 100% sure yet. 

Jeanette Harris-Courts: Congratulations on graduating, Joi! I sure know we’re going to miss having you around the office after you depart for college in a few weeks. Kellen, do you have any ideas where you might be going to college after this next year?

Kellen von Hoven: I definitely plan on going to college after high school, but I’m undecided as of now as to which one. I do know that when I get to college in two years, I plan on applying and participating in the ROTC or the NROTC to start my carrier in the military.

Jeanette Harris-Courts: Wow! Good for you, Kellen. We can’t wait to see what college is lucky enough to snag you. So how did you both get involved with working for Trailnet?

Joi MC:  I got involved in the summer of 2016 through STL Youth Jobs. At the end of my eight-week program, Director of Programs Cindy Mense asked me to stay as a part-time employee. As a 17-year-old, the benefits were good enough for me. I’d be working at a desk, on the computer, and listening to music at work instead of flipping burgers and smiling at mouthy customers. Beyond that amazing opportunity and the flexible hours I was allowed, Trailnet gave me valuable job experiences that will prove useful for future jobs.

KVH: I’m family friends with Steve Schmidt, the Rides Manager here at Trailnet. I started as a volunteer for the Trailnet Bicycle Fun Club rides doing a variety of things – I arrive before the 7:30 a.m. registration time to help Steve set up, I work registration, I’ve ran the occasional SAG run, and I help pack up at the end of a ride day. I continue to stay involved with Trailnet because I really enjoy these rides. The people are great, it’s always a great atmosphere, it’s for a great cause, and of course, I get to talk about bikes for hours on end with other riders – which is hard to do in my everyday life since my friends don’t even know how to take the front wheel off of a bike.

JHC: I know cyclists love seeing you out at our rides, Kellen. So Joi, what do you do here at Trailnet?

Joi MC: I mostly help with data entry for our bike rides, events, and memberships. It’s mundane work, but the workplace environment here at Trailnet is amazing! Working in the office helps me realize that Trailnet is member-driven and the work I do is the lifeblood of the organization. Lately, I’ve been branching out a bit more by managing signups and registrations, tabling to help with community outreach for the new vision, and helping Steve out at more rides and events.

JHC: Speaking of our vision, what are your thoughts about our city, the vision, and do you think St. Louis has what it takes to make this type of infrastructure happen?

Joi MC:  St. Louis is as ruptured as it is beautiful. We have a lot of work to do socially, politically, structurally, and economically. For better or for worse, to be a St. Louisan is to be passionate. I firmly believe no city can succeed without citizens who want to see the growth of that city. It takes work to develop a city, so without people willing to work, the city itself will not work. I do community outreach to help further Trailnet’s new vision because I truly believe in it. I love St. Louis, and I want to see it develop by way of bike and pedestrian accommodation. The changes that need to be made aren’t easy ones, and they would take all of our hard work and support; but if it means seeing my city flourish economically, living in a destination city, and making sure my friends and family feel safe and secure on the roads, however they choose to travel, I’m willing to work for it.

KVH: I couldn’t agree with Joi more. I bike everywhere – to friends houses for parties, to run errands, going on leisure rides with my dad, and I even biked to both of my jobs this summer. I love the idea of the Trailnet Vision. I feel fairly safe and comfortable riding on the street since I have some biking experience, but still, I have dealt with my fair share of accidents that had the inclusion of cars. I think people with less riding experience would feel much safer and more comfortable riding using the infrastructure that Trailnet wants to make happen. A city thrives through community, and that’s all I see with what Trailnet is doing. Biking, running, and walking are all great activities to do with family and friends so having a space for people to do so would only help the city grow. I think STL has potential and it might have a long way to go, but I believe we can get there.

Joi MC: Exactly! St. Louis has the foundation of any top city, which is residents that love their town and who want to see it prosper. All we need now is to come together, define our priorities, and make a decision to move forward as a city.

JHC: Cheers to that you guys! I couldn’t have said it better myself. When you advocates aren’t helping us make St. Louis a safer community for bikers and pedestrians, what do you do in your free time?

KVH: Other than biking I do many other activities – mostly with my family. This includes scuba diving, sailing, and skiing. When I was younger, my parents would go sailing every spring break for a week with other family friends and they’d leave my brother and I at home. Once my brother and I were old enough, they began taking us along and teaching us how to sail. I really got into manning lines and working on deck while by brother – who for some reason can’t get sea sick – works the ship from below. 

Joi MC: Before anything else, I’m a poet, and language is the greatest tool I will ever wield. Accordingly I’m also interested in Spanish and programming. Whether on paper or on screen, I am a creator with the ability to make something out of nothing. To pull strings from keystrokes and epics from graphite. To take words—from English or Ruby, Spanish or JavaScript—that accomplish nothing on their own…I manipulate them to form my own world of meaning. That world may remind someone of their childhood or manage a database of employees; no two poems or projects are the same. I like to say that writing doesn’t just fuel me, but it’s my engine, ignition, and battery.

JHC: Beautiful, you two. Okay one last question: What has been your most memorable Trailnet memory so far?

KVH: My most memorable Trailnet experience was my first Bicycle Fun Club ride, the Great Pizza Ride. I was able to be there from the very beginning to the end. I got to meet a lot of new people, I rode the ride after registration, and the pizza afterwards was delicious.

Joi MC: When I first came to Trailnet, I was supremely intimidated. I didn’t say much to anybody and worked through my lunches despite being told to take breaks. The point I began to relax came on a Tuesday when everyone was in the kitchen celebrating some birthday. I was working through yet another break when I heard the employees of Trailnet making plans for happy hours while sitting on tables & making lame jokes with each other. It was tremendously humanizing. After that I started to gradually ease into the professional, but fun Trailnet atmosphere, and I’ve been comfortable with my coworkers – and now friends – ever since.

JHC: Oh Joi, we sure are going to miss having you around the office. Luckily we get to keep Kellen for a few more years, but we hope to see you around when you come back in the summers Joi. Thank you both for taking the time to meet with me and discussing your time spent at Trailnet, outside of Trailnet, and your thoughts on our vision. Our office appreciates your hard work and dedication to our mission to help make St. Louis a more commuter friendly city.

KVH: Thanks, Jeanette!
Joi MC: Thanks!