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.
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).