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Using skateboarding to empower at-risk youth | HUMAN Impact

Using skateboarding to empower at-risk youth | HUMAN Impact

A lot of these kids are being pelted with
all different challenges and people trying to belittle them or question who they are
as people. Our kids only see what is right around them
and what is around them is often not very uplifting. I’m kind of given this opportunity to help
kids who have a choice to make in life. Do they checkout and unplug like I did or
do they push themselves to become the best version of themselves? When I was growing up, I didn’t have, like,
a role model who intervened and wasn’t, like, stern and wasn’t like, “Hey, kid, wakeup,
you got to clean up your act. You need somebody to hold you accountable
because when you’re 16, it’s difficult. I think that success in any way shape or form
in life is a product of opportunity And in our economy, income has a lot to do with opportunity. My parents, they were busy working in order
to just kind of like make ends meet. So a lot of the supervision wasn’t there just
because they had to work so much, which kind of led me to do whatever I want because nobody
was watching me and nobody knew whether I was going to school or not. I left El Salvador with my husband because
at that time, in the ’80s, you know, the civil war started and we were in danger. We came from a different society. In order to make a living, we have to get jobs. In order to get jobs, we have to leave the
kids alone. Most of the time, his mom was working. Me, I was working. We dedicate all our times, our love to him
and it was really a hustle. And we don’t have nobody else in this country,
nobody who could help us to educate him, to guide him. A lot of the negative influences around, like,
skateboarding just kind of like accelerated that downward spiral into all that negative,
juvenile behavior, like, ditching class and doing graffiti and hanging out with, like,
bad kids, doing drugs. So in 10th grade, like, I just decided to
dropout from school. I got a job working the graveyard shift in
a grocery store. The place ends up getting robbed at gunpoint
and at that moment, like, I started to question everything that I was doing up to that point. There has to be something bigger. There has to be something more fulfilling. So I went to school. I graduated from college. That’s what started my trajectory to kind
of like reintegrate myself into society. The way I found Stoked, it was a way for me
to get back into something that was more fulfilling than what I was currently doing because I
was just feeling empty in a way. So everybody has a board, right? I’ll give you one of the classic ones, yeah? Ah, you like it huh? Stoked is a mentoring organization built on
the principles of action sports. We take kids that are at-risk or have less
opportunity and put them in situations that will inform who they are as a person and empower
them to succeed. Skateboarding teaches you perseverance, determination,
relentlessness. It really makes you push against your own
self because you know that it’s going to lead to accomplishment and success and with anything
in life, you know, you’re going to fail. You’re going to come to roadblocks. You’re going to face and meet challenges,
but it’s like that determination to just keep going. You know the word FAIL stands for? No, what? What is that? It stands for First Attempt In Learning. Fail. So whenever you fail, it’s not that you’re
a failure. That’s different. It just means that you’re trying something
that you didn’t try before and it’s just one step to actually getting good at that. Their stories vary, but you know, you’re talking
about people who come from broken homes, don’t have anything to eat. I guess the one overarching theme is, you
know, they’re coming from deficient backgrounds. Most of our kids are coming from single-parent
families. We have kids who are homeless. We have kids who are living out of their van
with their families of five, kids who have lost their parents due to gang violence. We have students who are involved in gangs,
which is why they are here. Stoked teached me how to be, like, confident
and not, like, be scared to fall down. They teached me how to, like, communicate
with other people. I get to express my feelings, I guess. When I get on there, I feel like I’m free
and I can do, like, anything I want. I definitely see myself in the kids that I
work with. They just want a sense of belonging. Looking back at my life, it’s like I was missing
a community when I was growing up and going through a lot of the stuff I was going through. It’s crazy to see what happens when kids put
two and two together, that I’m not just here for fun. This is actually empowering my life. You don’t have to be a saint. You don’t have to be perfect in order to help
other people. At the end of the day, it’s just, like, when
you’re gone what’s your legacy on another person? So I think at a minimum that everybody should
be striving to, like, at least help just one person or change or somebody’s life because
it only takes one. I’m not trying to change 300 people’s lives
or everybody who I come into contact with, but if it’s just one, then I know that when
I die that I left some sort of positive impact on others.


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