Norte! Ty Schmidt

In a life full of questionable choices, 12 years ago I made a really good one. I decided to start “job sharing” with my wife, Johanna. We were then both physical therapists at a rehab clinic in Tucson, AZ, and our first son, Carter, was just born. I wanted to be there to help raise him, so Johanna began working the mornings and I worked the afternoons. In between, we chased Carter around. Little did I know all the positive changes that choice would trigger.

Today, living in Traverse City, we continue to job share at Munson Community Health Center, now chasing two boys (Jameson arrived in 2006) and we are indeed happy. As a P.T., I help others hurt less to move more and I love doing it. It has been very fulfilling. My “job” rarely feels like “work.” Still, I wondered: Could there be more?

When both boys started school, I began to notice things: there were fewer bikes and longer car lines; like-minded moms and dads who wanted to bike to school, but simply didn’t have the time; and unsafe riding by kids as they pedaled on sidewalks or didn’t know how to signal or negotiate a 4-way stop.

Because my wife and I had the time, we decided to try to make a difference. We started inviting neighborhood families to drop their kids off at our house so we could bike with them to school. I would lead the “bike train” in the morning and Johanna would pedal home with the group in the afternoon.

And that’s how Norte!, a bike-centric, youth-focused advocacy organization was born. Thanks to many wonderful people, Norte! has taken off. I’m now its first Executive Director. I get paid to ride bikes with kids. How awesome is that?! Even better: Kids in the area are learning the confidence that comes with safe bike riding; the area has a little less traffic and car pollution; and the community has a greater sense of, well, “community.”

Because of that one career decision 11 years ago to prioritize my time, I’m now happy at home, fulfilled at work and making a difference in my amazing adopted hometown.

Ty Schmidt, founder of Norte!