Alumna rides for a reason
Amanda Koch never considered herself an avid cyclist, but after learning about the affordable housing crisis plaguing Illinois and the rest of the country, she decided to strap on her helmet and trek across the U.S. with Bike and Build.
Accompanied by 25 other cyclists, Koch spent 75 days pedaling from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Cannon Beach, Oregon, to raise money and awareness for an issue she studied thoroughly at UIC.
“My field is public health,” said Koch, who graduated with a master’s in public health-epidemiology in fall 2015. “Safe and affordable housing is an important social determinant of both physical and mental health. It’s something that I personally care a lot about and want to improve.”
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is no U.S. state where a person working full time at minimum wage can afford a fair market, two-bedroom apartment.
In Cook County, rent prices are especially high. Renters need to make $22.62 an hour to manageably pay for a two-bedroom apartment. When households fall short of earning $22.62 an hour, they are considered cost burdened.
“I’ve seen that play out personally,” said Koch, who lives in Pilsen. “I’ve witnessed family members having to move away from the neighborhood they’ve lived in their entire lives because they can no longer afford it.”
Koch’s passion for affordable housing translated into large donations. Before taking off on her journey, Koch set her fundraising goal at $4,500. She was pleasantly surprised to raise a total of $5,228.
“She will help every living thing,” said Natalie Banach, Koch’s former supervisor from UIC Campus Recreation who donated to the cause. “She’s a very positive, self-giving person.”
Koch’s 10-week ride wasn’t without its challenges, though.
“Being from Chicago, I had nothing but flat land to train on,” Koch said. “I was incredibly unprepared for the Appalachian Mountain Range and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It killed me.”
Koch persevered and completed the ride. Her long, curly hair wasn’t so lucky.
“I did have to chop off like two-thirds of it about halfway through the ride because it was getting too sweaty under my helmet,” she said.