Tag Archives: New York

STOKED to Serve – A Mentor’s View

STOKED to Serve – A Mentor’s View

Words and photos by Vanella Richardson

STOKED mentoring is as bold and dynamic as the name suggests: all-day snowboarding in the winter, surf Saturdays in the summer, and skateboarding sessions in-between. My first introduction to the program was far from the slopes of Belleayre or the beach at Rockaway but just as impactful. On a bitter-cold but sunny day in November 2014 I trekked up to the Bronx to volunteer for a community service project, STOKED to SERVE. I nervously stepped into my first STOKED circle, introduced myself, and the rest is history. To this day STOKED to SERVE is still one of my favorite parts of the program.

April 16th was the first STOKED to SERVE of 2016, and it did not disappoint. The weather was perfect. The kids and mentors, a hearty mix of familiar and new faces, were happy, eager, and present. The agenda for the day was simple; spend the morning cleaning and beautifying the East Side Community Garden followed by an afternoon skate session and a well-deserved pizza lunch in between. After a quick run-through of what needed to be done; raking, weeding, planting, we separated into our groups, tools in hand, and dug right in. I am always impressed by the work ethic these kids have. Even though we weren’t perfecting 180s or paddling for a wave, everyone had that same quiet focus. The plant boxes were cleaned and filled with flowers, carefully spaced out and alternating in color. The dead, twisted ivy that covered the chain-link fence was picked clean and raked into neat piles.The kids who trickle in later in the morning don’t hesitate to ask where they are needed and jump right in. I had the pleasure of getting to know Ronny. We instantly connected over a shared interest in nutrition and botany. I can see it in his face and hear it in his voice that he is passionate about the subject. Although he mentions that he has a more “sensible” back-up plan, for the moment it’s nice to compare notes and share ideas without the pressure of having to “figure it all out”.




Admittedly, although I told myself that I couldn’t stay the whole day, that I needed to go home and tend to some overdue “adulting”… I couldn’t resist. Two hours later I’m borrowing a skateboard I swore I wouldn’t ride and learning a trick I didn’t plan on learning. The atmosphere is so magnetic and the people so fantastic that you cannot not want to be a part of it.

Eventually we regroup for our closing STOKED circle, which has somehow tripled in size since the morning, and give out our kudos. STOKED to SERVE may officially be over but we still linger. Some stay and continue to skate, most kick over to a nearby skatepark, while a handful of us stay on for a bonus pick-up soccer game. When I get home, content and relaxed from a full day of fun and fresh air, I realize how important days like these are for both mentors and mentees. They provide a welcomed break in our hectic routines, an outlet for our stresses, and an environment where existing relationships are maintained and new ones fostered, strengthening our bond as an organization.

If you’d like to get involved with STOKED, go here.

STOKED x HUGE Design Day

STOKED x HUGE Design Day

Words by: Katie Ferraro
Photos by: Romney Lewis

Our STOKED Year 2 students from five different schools in New York had the opportunity to work with digital agency, HUGE, to bring their skateboard brands to life. Thank you to everyone at HUGE for supporting our Stokers by teaching them about branding and design!

Check out the video recap:


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.