Header photo by: Adam Reynolds.
For those who don’t know who STOKED is prepare to be excited. They are one of the most innovative non-profits in America using action sports to reach teens in some of the most vulnerable areas. The mission of STOKED is to provide inspiration to teens through riding a wave, building a skateboard, and skiing down amazing mountains.
STOKED looked at the opportunity gap for low income children and wanted to find something to fill that void. Most kids from single parent households lack a role model and have minimal hopes of attending college. STOKED comes into the picture to provide a community of mentors, after school programs, and inspirational experiences that open up the world to these kids.
STOKED works with middle schools and high schools to create an alternative learning situation for kids. They have created a four-year program that provides a setting and tools for students to go to college. In addition STOKED creates weekend trips to learn action sports, promote personal development, academic achievement, and healthy living.
Founder, Steve Larosiliere defines the STOKED success in this way, “For the past 5 years in a row we have a 100% high school graduation rate. For the past 2 years 100% college acceptance.”
How does it work:
Mentors take teens on day trips outside of the city and show them how to do incredible things. From standing on a mountain top to catching their first wave these mentors place kids in environments that not only changes their perspective, it has a chance to have a life long impact on their lives. The mentors come from all walks of life including film directors, sales managers, and marketing professionals who have a passion for snowboarding, skateboarding, or surfing.
They have also created some amazing partnerships along the way that have put STOKED in a unique position to impact many lives in Americas inner cities. These partnerships include Nike, Vans, and State Farm. These major partnerships were no doubt enacted by STOKED co-founder Sal Masekela. Many may know him from hosting ESPN’s The X-Games for the past 13 years. He has been a key part of bringing relevant sponsorship and partners to the STOKED table to help maximize their community impact thus far.
Below is a quick Q&A with Co-founder of STOKED , Steve Larosiliere who himself has a very impressive resume. Steve has been named Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Black MBA, Honored as a Hometown Hero, and given a Community Impact Award. His work has appeared in the New Yorker Magazine, ESPN, Huffington Post, Nylon Magazine, Fuel TV, Bloomberg, and the Wall Street Journal. Steve speaks worldwide on the subject of youth empowerment, social entrepreneurship, and closing the opportunity gap, and action sports at places like Bloomberg and the United Nations.
I believe STOKED really is one of the most innovative non-profits in America. Why do you think you have been so successful in engaging and inspiring at risk teens?
I think we meet teens where they’re at. We don’t attempt to tell them what to do and put our own ideals on who they should be. Our programs and organization accepts students for who they are and works with them to achieve the goals they set for themselves. I also think it comes down to the community we’ve built. I can’t think of another place where people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures can bond and connect… aside from skate, surf, and snow culture. It’s truly inspiring to see young people grow and feel safe and supported.
STOKED has developed some amazing partnerships with the likes of Nike and Vans. Talk about developing these partnerships and how its been a help to impacting lives in the communities.
Companies and brands give us a platform to do our work without restrictions to resources: funding, exposure, and relationships. Being able to have the social proof that a big brand gives STOKED, allows us the credibility to work with more brands and corporations.
Your Co-founder is Sal Masekela, who some may know from ESPN and the X Games. How did that relationship develop and turn into starting STOKED?
When I was first starting out…. I thought that I should have a famous person get involved. I thought of Sal Masekela. From what I saw on TV he was so genuine, authentic and seemed like he was friends with everyone. I googled his name, found a phone number, called it. Got the name and number of his agent.
I called his agent once a week for 2 months. Sal eventually called me back. We spoke for hours. We had a lot in common and had similar backgrounds (we’re both of Haitian descent). I got on a plane from NY to LA the next day to meet him and solidify the relationship. His couch was my couch every time I went to LA for STOKED.
He’s more like a brother now and we’re on a mission to close the opportunity gap for low income kids and turn them into fearless leaders through action sports.
New York and L.A. are the two main focus cities for STOKED at the moment. How much interest have you seen from other cities to bring something like STOKED to their state?
Yes, we’ve had for the past 10 years been asked by many people and cities to bring STOKED there. We’re finally after 10 years starting to entertain the idea now that we’ve built up a track record.
STOKED has impacted many teens and parents for that matter. What are some of the social impacts that STOKED has made so far that you and your team are the most proud of?
What I’m really excited about these days are the number of relationships, experiences, and skills that we’re passing along to our teens. Most recently one of our students got a college acceptance letter from a university… Not only did this student get a scholarship, but the University Admissions Director noted in the college acceptance letter that in particular they were pleased by their participation in STOKED. This blew me away because I knew students were using their experiences on college essays and standing out, but to be acknowledged by a university, I was truly proud. For the past 5 years in a row we have a 100% high school graduation rate. For the past 2 years 100% college acceptance.
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