Tag Archives: New York

STOKED NeON Summer Skate Program

STOKED NeON Summer Skate Program

Words and photos by Brad Williams

When I was first briefed on the STOKED/NeON summer skate program in Brownsville, Brooklyn, I had no idea what to expect from it. I only knew that it sounded like something I definitely wanted to be a part of. Skateboarding isn’t something that comes to mind when one thinks of Brownsville. The neighborhood is too often characterized by the reports of violence and gang/drug-related crimes that frequent local headlines. That’s not the Brownsville I know, but even when I lived there in 2012, it was rare to meet a fellow skater from the neighborhood. Sure, someone was always making use of one of the many spots in the area, but they were mostly from elsewhere, and just made a trip out to skate spots they’d seen in videos. Now, just four years later, Brownsville’s skate scene has grown immensely. With plenty of youths trying to get the most out of their neighborhood on a deck, two trucks, and four wheels.

On the first day of our program, I was genuinely surprised to see the majority of kids we spoke with on recruitment day actually showed up! None of them owned a skateboard, yet some already knew how to ride. A few couldn’t even set foot on a board. Still, with brief instructions and a little encouragement, everyone was pushing and stopping comfortably by the end of day one. By day two, it was clear that the group was having more fun than anyone expected.

The next week we encountered a group of teenage skaters rolling around Betsy Head Park. They were quick to skate over and greet James and I with plenty of questions. After we explained what the program was about, they were eager to join us. Even with the wide range of skill levels, everyone in our group has made notable progress over the past few weeks. Not only are the older participants learning tricks like heelflips and bigspins, but they’re gaining confidence in their abilities on and off the board.

With a multitude of personal backgrounds, everyone stands to gain something unique from this program. Some participants used to skate, but gave it up at some point and got in legal trouble along the way. Others started before the program, and others are just discovering their new abilities this summer! Regardless of background, I know they’ll leave our program with new friends and valuable skills. Despite the area’s reputation, this group contains are some of the most genuine and motivated people I’ve worked with in my five years of teaching skateboarding. I hope to read headlines about pro skaters from Brownsville in the near future.

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For more information on STOKED programs click here.

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”.

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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:

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A Cooking Class With An Iron Chef

A Cooking Class With An Iron Chef

Words by: Steve Larosiliere

Photos by: Emily Winiker

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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