Tag Archives: Stoked Mentoring



Words & Photos: Dustin Valdez

I was asked to participate as a coach in the 2016 STOKED & Mountain Dew Summer Program. Without hesitation I said yes, since I’ve been a longstanding volunteer with and fan of STOKED. The summer program is a 6-8 week student-led project which is sponsored by Mountain Dew. 8 STOKED students were handpicked from various schools to participate in the program. Their goal was to create, plan, and execute a project that would benefit the Los Angeles skate community. With the help of Mountain Dew’s creative agency Motive, we introduced the students to branding, marketing, event planning, design, and networking principles to help develop their ideas.

Using these principles, our students created the Los Angeles Skate Movement. LASM is the brainchild of 8 students who identified a problem among current LA skate culture. The students noticed that most stake parks in LA were overcrowded, geographically isolated, and provided minimal opportunities for community bonding. Their initial solution to this problem was to create one-off skateboarding obstacles (ramps, boxes, or rails) throughout different communities to encourage a fluid urban skateboarding experience. This concept later evolved into a mobile series, since more LA areas could be targeted to increase community excitement and involvement.


The students are currently in week 7 of the program and are in the process of finalizing details on how the project will come to life. In general, the vision for LASM is an ongoing event that will include a mobile skatepark, art workshops, music performances, and community service. Once these details are finalized, a kickoff celebration will be hosted and subsequent events will roll out across various neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

To promote LASM and its future events, Mountain Dew provided the students with a vendor booth at the 2016 Dew Tour in Long Beach, California. This served as a platform for the students to share their story and connect with those who have a passion for skateboarding and community building. After the 3 day event, they collected 100 pledges/emails from individuals interested in following their movement.

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The professional experience that our students have gained from this summer opportunity is coupled with invaluable personal achievements. One student, Brenda, designed the logo for LASM which was later used on flyers, t-shirts, and promotional signage at the Dew Tour vendor booth. This taught her how to apply her passion for art toward creating a powerful branding tool for her peers and community. Another student, Oscar, overcame a fear of public speaking when he volunteered to work the booth for all 3 days. By tapping into his natural gift of connecting with others, he became one of the group’s most effective brand ambassadors and helped contribute to a large portion of the collected pledges/emails.

Opportunities like these help our students grow. They help bridge the gap between abstract academics and applicable skills used in real-world settings. This process also allows them to tackle challenges which they perceive as difficult, and in doing so their self-esteem and confidence increases. This positive mental health state will help them meet similar challenges in school, work, and personal life with courage, determination, and creativity. Please be sure to follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LASkateMovement/) and Instagram (@laskatemovement).


STOKED at House Of Vans

STOKED at House Of Vans

Words by Kyle Samuelson

This Spring, STOKED was lucky enough to partner with the House of Vans in Brooklyn to offer our STOKERS an extremely privileged opportunity to skate this amazing indoor park all by ourselves. Vans was kind enough to line up four different dates throughout our STOKED Skateboard season for our kids to tackle this world class park. We felt so lucky to skate the same street obstacles and transition lines as we have seen Vans pros skating in videos and magazines. And with all the pizza and water we needed to keep us fueled, the days were some of the most special STOKED Skateboarding days I have been apart of.

I have a distinct memory of surveying the park; with all of it’s rad art on the walls, the sun shining outside the garage door, kids dropping in on the mini ramp for the first time, coaches cheering wildly as a student nose manny’ed the entire ledge, program manager Romney DJ’ing up on the catwalk, friends taking a breather on the bench to my left, and a new volunteer just smiling ear to ear to my right. “This is dope”, was all he could muster. “Yea man, this is dope”, was all I could respond.

There was something about seeing all of STOKERS riding with such confidence around this hallowed skatepark that really made me realized how special this program is, and in particular, how special our kids are. We are inspiring fearless leaders, and it’s a privilege for me and the rest of our staff and volunteers, to see how exactly that looks. In this case, it looked like a student skating around to pick up empty water bottles and throw them into the recycling bin. It looked like a student so determined to dropping in that after a few falls, her smile served as physical proof of her determination. It looked like every one of our students approaching our hosts Frank and Nick to shake hands and give a sincere thank you. It looked like many things this Skate season, but there was something about seeing it in this space that really illuminated it for me.

We are so lucky to be able to partner with such amazing organizations that offer time, space, money, food, anything to help us create fearless leaders. Vans are fearless leaders themselves and we are so honored to be able to help cultivate more leaders literally under the banner that reads “Off the Wall”.




To help us continue to provide opportunities like these to our youth, sign up to be a STOKED Igniter, and sponsor one of our youth!  Join now at stokedigniters.com.  

Week Without Walls at East Side

Week Without Walls at East Side

Words by Alex Bruno

On Tuesday May 17th, East Side Community High School closed its doors. Not permanently, but rather for an extended vacation so students could learn outside of the classroom. At East Side, we call this Week Without Walls. WWW is when students and teachers come together over a shared passion. East Side students went as far as Belize to bond over common ground but our itinerary did not involve planes, white sand beaches or snorkel gear. Myself and fourteen students embarked on a journey of skateboarding exploration throughout New York City.

Our journey began as we got off the bus in Chinatown. We made our way towards LES Skatepark, which resides under the Manhattan Bridge. For me, this experience was a mix of irony and nostalgia as I have been coming to this skatepark for the past eight years with close friends since I was around my students age. Although the park has changed drastically over the years, it still remains a hub for New York skateboarding at any time of the day. My Year 2 students would use this day to film for their brand’s promo, which debuted at the End of Year Brand Showcase. Besides a couple minor spills, we enjoyed a day of Lower East Side skateboarding and the tastiest two dollar dumplings money could buy.


The second day could not have been any more different from the first. I met the students at East Side in the morning to warm up and stretch before heading to the L train we would take over to west side of Manhattan. We proceeded to Tribeca Skatepark, an empty but narrow gem overlooking the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan. As the Freedom Tower beamed in the distance, we took full advantage of the empty park until the heat would usher our first break of the day. As we skated towards the pier and enjoyed the view and breeze, we would be greeted by what would become a common thread throughout the day: security. Ironically enough, skateboarding isn’t as well liked in Tribeca as it is in the Lower East Side so we would eventually end our day with a non-skateboarding related activity. We visited the September 11th Memorial Pools on our way back to the train. As the students stared into the depths of the black marble abyss, I sat and reflected on the magnitude of where we were standing and how many of them had never seen this memorial or even were alive when it happened.


On our third day, we would travel across the river to Brooklyn to visit Cooper Park. Cooper is a relatively new skatepark that opened up this past Fall by the Graham Avenue L train stop. The skatepark is truly woven into the actual park itself so the students would weave around trees to skate the many ledges, rails and hips. After sessioning Cooper, we would continue throughout Williamsburg, exploring different streets and avenues and coming to the conclusion that no one has better dollar slice pizza than the East Village. We would end our day skating at a spot called “The Monument”. Residing at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge, this spot has draws skateboarders for its low ledges and plaza-like feel. The students decided to put on their own contest down the three stair, ending the day on a fun and competitive note.

Our final day would serve as the biggest challenge, metaphorically and literally. Chelsea Skatepark on the west side of Manhattan is famous for its steep transition and deep pools but nonetheless, the students were down for the challenge. We started in the shallow end of the bowl, working on pumping through transition and using your weight to go through the bowl without pushing. James, who is pictured below, really got the hang of it and started working his way up to the tile. Once the bowl session came to a close, the students explored the park, blasting up gaps and cruising down wallrides. A small group of students at the beginning of Week Without Walls expressed their lack of skateboarding experience. By the time we finished up at Chelsea, they were coasting down five foot banks like it was nothing. Throughout the trip, this particular group of students were very vocal about their newfound love of skateboarding, telling me they enjoyed the sense of brotherhood and freedom skateboarding brings. Hearing that from a group of students that have been skateboarding for a couple of days just affirmed why this trip happened and why so many people step on their skateboard every single day.


To support our afterschool programs, become a STOKED Igniter! Learn more here.

STOKED. Family. Igniters.

STOKED.  Family.  Igniters.

Words:  Constance Beverley

This year, we asked the STOKED Youth, on both coasts, what STOKED means to them.  Their resounding response:  “STOKED is family.”

We believe people (youth, mentors, supporters etc.) gravitate to us because we provide a real connection, unconditional support, and a safe place to follow your dreams.  For our youth, staff and mentors, each program day, after school session, skateboarding, snowboarding, or surfing trip, is an opportunity to grow and succeed in a safe, supportive place. We know we can trust each other and rely on each other to help us become the best version of ourselves.  That is STOKED.  STOKED is family.


Unfortunately, it’s hard to get every member of our STOKED family out to the beach, up to the mountains, or out to one of our partner schools.  We wish you could all come to every program day and build skateboards, meet with our professional mentors, and shred.  We wish you could share every minute of our 450 hours of programming per year, but we know, you have meetings, families, rock bands, start-ups, book clubs, crossfit, the works.  We also know, that doesn’t make you any less a part of the family.  STOKED is family.  Family is forever (even if you can’t make it to Thanksgiving this year).  

But if you want to be more involved, and help fuel all 27,000 minutes of STOKED Programming for 2016/17, there is a way and you don’t have to leave your desk, child, rescue pet, etc.  All you have to do is sign up to be a STOKED Igniter.

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What’s an Igniter – let’s say it’s that really awesome Aunt/Uncle/Cousin/etc. that always checks in on you, supports everything you do, and helps out by slipping you a little cash now and again. Or, in plain terms:  the STOKED Igniters are monthly donors (contributing either $27/month or $87/month) that support all of STOKED’s programming – every skateboard built, snack consumed, wave caught, kickflip landed, and powder turn made.  In exchange, we send you so much love and thanks – swag, parties, a private website/facebook group – and constant updates on all the awesome you’ve made happen in our lives, like the most grateful family member you could ever imagine.  You take care of us, we take care of you, because, STOKED is family.  

Our supporters make everything happen, with every instagram like, facebook share, hour volunteered, and dollar raised.  This family rocks.


Join the Igniter family today at www.stokedigniters.com.