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October 31st, 2013

do the KIND thing: Stoked Mentoring, youth mentorship in action

By KIND Editor

Music: “Don’t Say Maybe” by James Hersey

Last spring, KIND partnered with the great action sports and youth mentorship organization Stoked with a $7,500 gift to support their summer programming. Over the summer, that gift was used to provide swimming lessons and to buy much-needed workshop materials for the season. We are proud to support a great organization that is helping to make the world a kinder place. Since 2005, Stoked has worked with over 3,000 youth to teach life skills through participation in action sports activities ranging from surf camp to skate deck building workshops.

We are committed to Do the KIND Thing and moving forward, KIND is providing funding for one project per month. Do you have an idea that makes the world a better place? Do you know of an organization that is actively supporting their community? Submit your project here and learn more about how small acts of kindness can add up to world change.


KIND: What is the mission of Stoked?

Steve Larosiliere: Stoked is a youth development program in New York and Los Angeles. We work with low-income and minority youth using the platform and culture of action sports to get them ready for college and future careers.

We have weekend sports mentoring programs where kids snowboard, skateboard and surf with adult positive role models. And they learn life skills, such as resiliency, and values, like respect, trust, communication and how to set goals. We do that at various resorts, beaches and skate parks.

We also have after-school programs, which is the heart of what we do, where we use project-based learning to really help the kids improve academically and socially, and apply the life lessons that they’re learning on the weekends to their schoolwork.

Since we began in 2005, Stoked has worked with over 3,000 kids. Our aim is to work with kids for all four years of high school, and really be the means for them to graduate high school and become successful adults.

That’s inspirational. You guys received funding for a KIND Project earlier this year. Can you talk a little bit about the process of receiving that grant and what KIND acts were enabled through the funding?

Stoked applied for the grant and then we engaged our community to vote. We have a pretty active social media presence and a following from all over the world. It was great to get our community involved to help make this happen.

We were able to apply the funding to our spring programs—community service projects and after-school programs. We had kids build skateboards after school, and then those same kids, when they’re done with school, had swim lessons. The funding was used to buy materials for the program and to help pay for swim lessons. Now they’re getting ready for surfing.

When you teach young people how to swim and they learn how to build their own skateboards, what type of changes do you see in them?

In the short term, what we’ll start to see is that kids become more accountable. The kids that we tend to work with are on the verge of checking out of school. Schools use us as a way to keep kids engaged, active and motivated. They start to show up more; when attendance improves, their grades improve.

Principals in schools see that kids are more engaged in the school culture. When you have a more engaged school culture, then you have a more friendly culture. Stoked helps to increase an overall sense of good will at a school.

The longer that a young person stays in our program, the more dramatic the effects can be. We start to see confidence go up, they can speak in front of large groups of people and they have better time management skills. They also can start and finish tasks, which sounds simple, but it’s not.

A lot of people don’t know that there is an opportunity and income gap that exists and has widened over the past 30 years in the United States—middle class kids received three times more enrichment than low income kids. Economists are now saying that enrichment—after school programs, sports programs, family vacations, summer camps, and all of those extra things that are non-educational—add to an overall value and help a person become successful.

Stoked wants to increase the amount of enrichment hours for young people. Every year, every kid gets almost 200 hours of extra enrichment. So that adds extra education and enrichment to a young person’s life. If you add that up over four years, now you have a young person seeing things in a different way, meeting more people and having more skills.

Can you share an example of a success story?

Alexandra was 15 when she joined the program. When we met her, she was looking for something, because at the time, college wasn’t even a thought. She was on the verge of engaging in adverse behavior or potentially dropping out of school. When she joined our program, we matched her up with a mentor who provided a lot of solid, consistent guidance for her in her life.

She took advantage of all of the activities in our program. She started to show up to the extra meetings and club meetings, and then she did our snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing program. She paid more attention in school and had better attendance.

A lot of our kids, before Stoked, wouldn’t apply for extra opportunity. So she took advantage of those things and Stoked helped her step out of her comfort zone. She joined an exchange program, and it was her first experience through another organization—sailing in Maine for a couple of weeks during the summer. The first week, she would call our office and say, “I don’t want to be here. I’m bored.” Then she settled into that program. That next summer, she went to Ghana and volunteered at an orphanage.

Then she came back to New York, graduated from high school and went to a college upstate. During high school, she had applied for a job at Foot Locker. And Stoked helped her with the interview process—we even gave her application to the VP of Marketing, who was a mentor.

She was able to get a job and she kept the job through three years of college. And when she interned with us last summer, she did such a good job interning with us that I was ready to offer her a job. But I told her that she should probably keep her options open.

She still had a great relationship with her mentor, who had moved to Ohio by this point. She told me, “You know, I’m thinking about going to Ohio.” She applied for a couple of places in Ohio and used me as a reference. And even if she didn’t put me as a reference, she could have used at least 30 other adults that knew and worked with her over the course of four years.

She ended up getting a job—graduated college on a Saturday and moved to Ohio to start work on a Monday. She’s helping to unify families that were separated on the border. She has an apartment, a new car. The awesome thing about it is that she’s working at a non-profit social service agency.

It all started with her learning how to snowboard, and with support, skills and confidence, she was able to take advantage of other things. Every time I think about her I get really happy.

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