When I was growing up activities like skateboarding were things the “bad” kids did. It wasn’t even called a sport back then. This was also the experience of Stoked Mentoring founder, Steve Larosiliere. There is some irony then to the mission of Stoked Mentoring – “to promote personal development, academic achievement, and healthy living to under-served youth through action sports culture.” Said simply, Stoked is using the formerly taboo sports of snowboarding, surfing, and skating to teach inner city kids valuable life skills.
“I went snowboarding one day and I was hit with this idea,” Steve shared with me when I interviewed him recently. At the time he was working for a different mentoring program.
I was in Whistler and I thought, “Oh, I should take the kid who I’m mentoring here. If he saw these mountains, he’d lose his mind.” A lot of inner city kids are never really going to get a chance to just go out of the neighborhood and experience something different and push themselves physically and mentally.
From that inkling of an idea Larosiliere partnered with Sal Masakela, action sports commentator, and formed Stoked Mentoring in 2005. Stoked currently serves communities in New York and Los Angeles, but plans to expand to other cities.
“If you don’t have hope then it’s hard for you to see that you can take a different path,” said Larosiliere. “We’re like the uncles, aunts and coaches that made an impact for you growing up. But all our coaches are skateboarders and surfers.”
Stoked’s program is multi-faceted and goes beyond the typical mentoring program where kids simply spend time with adults. Stoked’s after-school workshops start kids off with a skateboard building project which takes them from design to completion. Along the way they learn project management, teamwork, communication, and collaboration skills.
Later on in their time with Stoked kids will also learn photography and design, go on group skate- and snowboarding outings, participate in volunteer work in their community, and eventually be paired with their own individual mentor.
And for the kids who participate in Stoked Mentoring’s programs, it makes a real difference. Said Larosiliere:
The kids we tend to attract are not the high achieving kids. They’re not the really smart kids from the inner city, nor are they the really bad disadvantaged kids. These are the kids that are at risk at any moment and they’re on the fringe. They could go to school, but nobody would really notice. Or they don’t go to school, they could drop out of school, they could join a gang. These are the kids that are most vulnerable. They’re the ones right in the middle. Without a role model these kids could end up in really bad situations and environments.
If you are interested in helping Stoked Mentoring on their mission there are a couple ways you can do it: donate money or goods or volunteer your time.
With the help of corporate sponsors, volunteer workers, and donations Stoked Mentoring will continue to help the kids who need it most, all while flipping the paradigm of action sports on its head.
“It’s not just about taking a kid on a mountain and taking them out of their environment,” said Larosiliere. “It’s about how can you take those skills and provide a program so they can have something to put on their college applications and resumes. Our mission is to promote academic achievement, personal development, healthy living through action sports.”
For more information visit the Stoked Mentoring website.