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Words By: Joe Sykes Mentoring often involves rudimentary tasks like helping out with a child’s homework but one New York organization wants to change all that by taking mentors out of the classroom and onto the skate ramps and the ski slopes

Paul Tucker, who mentors for Stoked, grew up in Buffalo where there wasn’t a big skateboarding scene. "I was just like the odd man out of the whole community," he says. "I begged and begged and I got some tom and jerry skateboard from Walmart."

From that point on he was hooked and he says, for him, skateboarding was an escape from a difficult childhood.

"I probably did do it to get away, to not have to deal with the situation I was in," he says. "I kind of felt like this was a pleasant excuse that I could go out and be by myself and I could ride for hours and hours and days and days and no one would bother me."

Now he’s a photographer living in New York and one day he realized he wanted to give some of the pleasure he’d derived from skateboarding back to kids like himself. And that’s where Stoked comes in. They are a mentoring program but instead of mentors taking their mentees to the park or the zoo they take them snowboarding, skiing and surfing.

"The overall philosophy is you fall down, you get back up, the more you get back up, the more confident you become and the faster you wanna go," says Steve Larosiliere, who heads up Stoked.

Right now it’s snow season in upstate New York so on a cold February night I find a group of six Stoked mentees huddled in the Stoked offices after a three day trip with their mentors in the Catskills.

One of those mentees is 17 year old Geishy Salazar. This was her third time snowboarding and that’s something she thought she’d never get to say. She lives in Harlem and says her parents were a little uneasy at first--no one in her family had ever snowboarded- but they soon got over it because they saw it made her more confident.

"Us being given these chances and opportunities it’s pretty crazy. It’s like you know, I’m a city kid but I can still do it," she says.

Whatever the value of mentoring, just being able to get out of the city for the day and do something you’ve never done before--well that’s enough for her.

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