Tag Archives: New York

A Cooking Class With An Iron Chef

A Cooking Class With An Iron Chef

Words by: Steve Larosiliere

Photos by: Emily Winiker


What’s an interesting experience you’ve recently had in your life?

Some of our students had the chance to take a cooking class with an Iron Chef!

An Iron Chef, yes…

A few years ago, Ninja Jonathan introduced us to Marc Forgione who came to an event and quickly became a supporter.

Marc is a passionate outdoorsman and snowboarder.

He also saw the parallels between cooking and action sports…

It’s hard work. It’s a passion-based lifestyle. It’s community driven.

Marc cooked up the idea of teaching our older students the valuable life skills of making a meal for themselves.

So we put together a day where our junior and senior year students did a visit to his steakhouse American Cut.



Before we went, the students were prepared as they always do — armed with research and questions about Marc’s life and career.

We prepped Marc on who the kids are, their background, interests, and aspirations.

When we arrived… the students were a bit overwhelmed…

This was definitely the most expensive restaurant they’d ever stepped in.

We were greeted by Marc — with his signature mohawk, he proceeded to tell the group about his background and history.

He’s so STOKED about cooking, restaurants, providing a great experience for his customers, his friends, and for our students.



A real life Iron Chef in front of us… and he’s a snowboarder, down to earth, and successful.

These are the qualities that we pass on to our students in our programs.

Marc is an ideal member of our community. Hardworking, passionate, and someone who gives a little bit of time to our students.

To mentor them. To give them hope and direction.

To give them a lifelong skill, like cooking.

After the talk, the students get changed into their serving attire.

Preparation for work.

Then they take a tour of the kitchen.

Then they break off into groups and learn about the different roles in the restaurant.

They start prepping for their lunch.



The students couldn’t believe this opportunity. Are they really cooking in a professional restaurant?

Their eyes opened up.

Could I work in this restaurant one day?

Could I eat here one day?

Imagine if I owned a restaurant like this…

Life and opportunities are about doors being opened. It’s up to you to walk in and make the most of what’s in the new room.

For our students, they got the chance to be mentored by one of the best chefs in the world.

After cooking the students set the table and served themselves.



Over the meal they reflected on the day, their time in STOKED, and discussed the future and the their unlimited possibilities.

When we think about this day and this opportunity this is ideal. What would happen if you teach students new skills, surround themselves with mentors, and raise their expectations.

In the case of these students… they all graduated from high school and are now enrolled in college.

Thank you to Marc Forgione for this amazing opportunity.

If you want to provide opportunities for students to learn a new skill and you want to share your talents with our community, please reach out.


The Impact of Surfing with STOKED

The Impact of Surfing with STOKED

By Julian Canery, STOKED Alum, Syracuse University ’17

I think that the best moments in life are when you do the unthinkable. I always tell people that I live to see new things and take on new challenges. For me personally, there’s nothing more fulfilling than to live a life filled with spontaneity and adventure. Everyday should be taken with a desire to learn new things, to visit new places, and to make new friends.
If you were to ever ask a young teenager from Brooklyn to hop on a board and surf, smack in the middle of Queens, he’d most definitely look at you like you’re crazy. Coming from an environment surrounded by pavement and concrete, it’s almost unthinkable to envision surfing in New York City. But if you can think it, it’s possible.
I remember being 17 when I first went to Rockaway Beach to surf with STOKED. With that being my first time ever surfing (and my first time ever taking the A train to Far Rockaway for any reason), I didn’t know what to expect. But as out of the loop as I was, I felt nothing but bliss the entire day. I remember seeing STOKED’s surf shack for the first time, and feeling like I wasn’t even in New York City anymore. To this day, surfing with STOKED has been one of the most surreal experiences of my life.


There aren’t many experiences that even come close to learning how to surf for the first time. If you were to ask me, the best part of my surfing experience was the very first time I stepped foot on a surfboard. I remember my heart beating ferociously in excitement — and every time I fell off the board I would run out the water as fast as I could, just to run back in. The very first time I successfully glided across the calm waves, I felt a sense of euphoria – almost as if I was flying. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. For those odd moments that I soared across the water, I felt limitless. What also caught my attention as a part of surfing with STOKED were the mentors. They were so patient with me my first time surfing, and there was never a point where I felt shy or nervous around them. Because of the support that my mentors gave me, I was able to focus completely on the board and the waves.

In retrospect, surfing was able to bring out a side of me I never knew existed. I was able to think the unthinkable in that present moment, and for a young Haitian American living in Brooklyn, those moments were so different from my everyday life. Not many people can say that they’ve been surfing, and I haven’t met anyone outside of STOKED that’s been able to say they’ve ever surfed in New York City. I will always have a large amount of respect for STOKED, because they give students the ability to have experiences they wouldn’t normally have in their day-to-day lives.


STOKED’s Continuing Education

Our former Outreach Manager, Kate West, used to make jokes all the time when she’d witness you doing something and feeling proud or accomplished, saying “empowering [name] through [activity]!” For example, “Empowering Sophia through Excel budgets!” It’s a riff on our old tagline, Empowering Youth Though Action Sports, the irony being that while STOKED is a youth development organization, it develops and empowers our staff as well. Even in the most mundane activities, like learning some new flashy chops in Excel.

Keeping in mind the perspective that the more educated, with it, and knowledgeable our staff is the better our work will  be, we’ve started a new professional development initiative here in the office: STOKED Reading Club. (Note that, unlike traditional book clubs, this one isn’t optional.) While we don’t have quite the bandwidth to follow Google’s 20% Rule, we’re making a deliberate effort to take time to make ourselves better at our jobs. That means that each Tuesday I, a self-diagnosed nerd and scavenger for information in any way pertaining to STOKED’s work and industry, select an article that I’ve come across and send it to our staff, both in NYC and LA. We all then have one week to read, digest and wax philosophical in a group email chain, sharing our thoughts and response to the reading.

The result will soon be a re-energized, more learned staff better prepared to do what we do. We also hope that this will inspire our community to follow suit, joining the Reading Club and contributing to the discussion.

– Sophia, Senior Program Manager

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This Week’s Reading:No Child Left Untableted” from the New York Times Magazine.

Some STOKED Offerings:

“What will this do to the student?  If the average middle schooler spends seven plus hours a day staring at a screen outside of school,  adding more screen time to their school day is not healthy.  So much is learned through social interactions, I cannot help but think putting a tablet in a child’s hand would decrease personalization and increase isolation.  I have seen a good amount of kids who join Stoked who are painfully shy.  By the end of the season, program, or whatever it may be, they are speaking in front of groups of 30 or more people like it’s no big deal.  If we put a tablet in their hands rather than encouraging these group interactions, they probably wouldn’t push themselves to break out of their shell.

When all is said and done, the  educational benefits of new technology depend on good teaching. If it is so easy to find the money for cool, new technology, then why is it so hard to find the money for good teachers?”

– Kat, Program Manager, Los Angeles


“While I feel that an adaptive learning platform for students does give rise to a more personalized educational experience, I don’t feel that our educational system is ready to make use of these tools.  Sure there are some public schools that are performing pretty well and could roll in the use of a new educational tool to keep down the cost and weight of textbooks.  What about the majority of city public schools which do not have any art or theater classes?  What about the teacher hiring freezes and lack of unions, contracts and worker protections that are preventing people from wanting to become top notch teachers?”

– Stu, Office Coordinator, New York


“Also it remains that lazy students will be lazy until they are engaged, and that’s a lot more complicated than giving them a toy. A human has to do it… Fancy tablets should be given to students that show that they are already achieving or on the road too, there should be either a test to qualify or an application.  You can’t give tablets to kids who need humans more than anything.”

– Coach Barry, New York


“I’m all for finding new ways to engage youth in the classroom, but I think that this initiative is just feeding a booming tech industry. The idea that youth can be spending more time using machines, and less time having face-to-face interactions scares me… This tablet program means well, but the real concern should be working to adequately train teachers and help them find creative ways to engage students and measure progress, not yet another way to have the 50 minute class pass as quickly as possible.”

– Hannah, Program Manager, New York


What are your thoughts? Comment here!



Do More Than Get a Tax Refund

“It was an amazing feeling going up the mountain. As I was making my way down for the first time, STOKED helped me believe that I couldn’t give up. I’ve applied those lessons from snowboarding to life, I never give up on what I’ve set my mind on. I see it through to the end no matter what.”  – Alexandra Parache, STOKED Alumna, 2012 Mentee of the Year, University of Rochester Class of 2013

You can do more than get a tax refund by the end of today. You can help a young student succeed in life.

Alexandra was 16 in this picture. Now she’s 21 and set to graduate from college in May. The picture was from her first time snowboarding. Although it’s the end of the year, it’s the beginning of our 8th snowboard season. During the snowboarding program, students like Alexandra learn to set goals, become confident, create a vision for their future and be inspired by positive adult mentors.

It costs $100 to take a student snowboarding for 1 day. This includes food, lift ticket, transportation and equipment. We have many students in our after school program that need a jump start this winter. Click on the donate button to empower a student from a low-income community with the experience and thrill of snowboarding.



We wouldn’t be here without the support of people like you. From everyone at STOKED, have a Happy and Healthy New Year!