June 21st is Go Skateboarding Day, which was created in 2004 by the International Association of Skateboard Companies in New York City. The goal of the holiday is to promote skateboarding and make it more accessible by hosting various events in major cities. Go Skateboarding Day gives me a great chance to talk about Skate After School, which is a non-profit organization that brings skateboarding equipment to schools in lower-income districts.
Skate After School
A little background about Skate After School (SAS) taken from their website:
Skate After School began as a small community project in 2012. We have since grown into a nonprofit organization providing weekly after-school programming to over 240 underserved children across eight Phoenix area schools. With donations, Skate After School is able to supply each student with the equipment and protective gear necessary to participate. Our team of trained volunteers leads instruction and ensures that fun and safety are top priorities.
I love how SAS teaches kids 4 core values – which spell out GRIP: G for generosity, R for respect, I for innovation, and P for persistence. Whenever a student acts on one of these values, they get a sticker! For example, if you see a student being respectful towards another student, you hand them a sticker for “Respect”.
How I Got Involved with Skate After School
On the first day of class in my first year of college, we had to introduce ourselves – you know, when you have to stand up in front of everyone, tell them your name, grade, major, and one fun fact. Those are always so much fun – I’m kidding if anyone thinks I’m serious. Anyways, one of my classmates’ fun fact was that he volunteers with kids teaching them how to skateboard. I remember thinking how cool that was.
After class, I literally chased him down – I’m not kidding. He probably thought I was weird – still weird to this day. I’m not sure exactly what happened to him. Last I heard, he transferred to a school in San Francisco during his second year. Anyways, I digress. Once I found him after class, he told me more about the organization. Later that day, I googled the program and sent the program director an email expressing interest in volunteering.
One year later, I was still trying to get situated at Arizona State University. My living situation was crazy the first year, so I never got the chance to fully commit to volunteering with Skate After School. Once everything was settled, I reached out again to the program director and we set up an interview!
Working with Kids
At first, I was nervous. I remember being so quiet around the students. Can you believe I, Demi Bang, was so quiet? I was nominated Most Talkative and Class Clown in high school, lol.
I grew close to the kids as the school year progressed. Unfortunately, the school where I volunteered was closing for renovations for one year and the kids were heading to different schools. It was sad because I wasn’t going to be able to see them again for a year.
The kids were always so fun to talk and skate with. There was a girl, Sabrina, who ran and hugged me every time we saw each other. It was so heartwarming because I remember she was so quiet and shy on her first day with the program. She had never ridden a skateboard before and seeing her get more comfortable with both skating and the other kids was something to see! There was also another girl, Leslie, who was sweet and would always give me the stickers she earned. Of course, she wanted to stick them on my phone case. Over time, my phone case had 4 stickers overlapping each other because of her. She ended up transferring to a different school halfway through the program because her family was moving to a different school district.
I love the program and I’ve been with them for the past three years now!
I highly recommend them if you’re looking for an organization to volunteer with in Phoenix, Arizona. They partner with over 8 schools in the valley and you don’t even need to know how to skateboard!
Learn more about Skate After School.