Q + A

Q+A: Steve Larosiliere of STOKED

A mentoring program for kids, with a difference: that’s what STOKED is all about. A non-profit company with their headquarters in DUMBO, Stoked aims to inspire some of the most vulnerable teens to believe in themselves and be successful beyond high school, through the power of action sport culture. It’s hands-on, boundary-pushing, incredibly unique and takes a fresh approach to mentoring through a four year program that engages youth and helps them grow through creativity and values learned from team sports.

A lot has changed since we last spoke to Stoked’s founder, Steve Larosiliere. The Stoked Space has been created, more collaborations are coming up and they even have a new office… But what remains the same is their passion for what they do, motivation to achieve their mission and love for being in DUMBO! Our fabulous summer fellow, Beth Flaherty, sat down with Steve to find out more.

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How did the idea develop from Skateboarding, Surfing and Snowboarding mentoring?

At the time I was a mentor to a kid and I really wanted to connect with him. In most mentoring programs you just hang out, talk at a table, go and eat pizza… but there’s really no way to connect with kids on a deeper level and really bond with them. I found that when you are able to bond with the kid, the life lessons, the inspiration and the motivation to overcome life obstacles dramatically increases, because you have a stronger relationship. In addition to that, there are a lot of life lessons in snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. With skateboarding our kids learn about communication skills and confidence, and in snowboarding they learn how to set goals. Through our surfing program, in addition to learning the sport of surfing, they learn how to swim, how to overcome their fears, and do something really cool. Overall we’re giving kids a positive outlet; the skills and tools they need so that they can succeed in life.

How can sport close the ‘opportunity gap’?

At least for the sports that we’re doing, there are a lot of skills that kids learn, such as resilience and the ability to get back up and learn from obstacles, which are important in life. By doing sport you also learn how to develop positive relationships, become part of a community, and feel supported within that community. You learn how to be more independent and self-reliant, because while you’re falling down and getting back up, you realize that everything is on you and you have to use your skills, tools and motivation in order to go forward. So, those are all of the life skills that our kids need. That’s what anyone needs to succeed in life.

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Can you tell us a bit about the multi-year program?

We realize that most kids need a formal structure in which they can work to over the course of their high school career. We found that, with the kids that stick with us over a longer period of time, their success levels dramatically increased the longer we work with them. So, what we’re doing is that every year kids learn different things. The first year is an introduction to Stoked. They get a taste of what the community is like, they build friendships and confidence, and learn positive, healthy social habits. After school, they can be building a skateboard, being creative and doing art. In the second year, they learn about entrepreneurship and how to create their own brand. Then, in the third year of the program they develop a career portfolio, so they learn about presentation skills, financial management and networking skills. Finally, in the fourth year of our program, they get an internship.

How important are adult mentors to Stoked?

Our adult mentors are critical. We need working professionals to donate their time and money to help us serve our kids. Overall, it’s important for our kids to get exposure to different races, people from different socio-economic backgrounds and other professional environments–we wouldn’t be here without our mentors.

What does the Stoked Space do?

It’s really about creating a space for our community to be able to come together and share ideas. We’ve hosted yoga workshops, networking events, panel discussions, sample sales–a bunch of different events happen in our space; we’re really excited about it!

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Any updates on Stoked’s collaborations with other companies in DUMBO?

Being in DUMBO, we’re able to tap different companies here and work with them. We’re continuing to work with Prolific Interactive, who helped us in creating our Build A Skateboard Brand curriculum, and they continue to host our kids. We also worked with HUSH, which is a design company with an office just down the hall from us. Currently, we’re collaborating with Huge, a digital agency in DUMBO, where we’re going to be working on a Design Thinking curriculum. They’re going to help us by using the things they do with their clients and implement it in ten of our schools in New York and LA next year, which is really cool! We’ll train our coaches too, by teaching them how to do design thinking and work with our kids. We also work with Juniper Jones, who are good friends of ours. They host workshops and create new opportunities for our kids.

What do you like about being in DUMBO?

We like DUMBO because it feels like a community; you can bump into people on the street and say hi to them. It’s a beautiful area, and it’s also a very inspiring place to be. It’s great to know that in all of these offices there are amazing companies with a lot of talent. Even on our floor alone there are four non-profits– that’s amazing! We need to be around creative people doing creative things. So for us, because we want to create opportunities for young people, it’s a great place to get a bunch of ideas. There are so many reasons why I just love being here!

Favourite spots in DUMBO?

Everybody likes Pedros for their lunch, though I always eat at Archway Café. If we want to get fancy, we go to Atrium!