We spoke to Ryan Lay about Skate After School, a program teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds how to skateboard. Learn about its beginnings, Ryan’s view on skateboardings usefulness as a tool for social change, how to start your own and more.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Lay / Skate After School
When did Skate After School start and why did you guys decide to get it going?
Skate After School more or less started in 2012/2013 as a community project donating boards to local community centers. We were all kind of lacking some sense of fulfilment and were looking to do something positive in our community – being skateboarders, this just seemed like the natural thing to do. We quickly expanded into a local elementary school and from there started doing consistent after school programming.
How easy was it to get the program going? Getting a venue, boards, ramps etc together. Is there any local government funding available for initiatives such as this?
The program started really small – just collecting old stuff from friends and through the skateshop. Social media definitely helped spread the word and also served as a great transparency tool so people could see pretty immediately where their donations were going/the impact they were making. We went through a venture incubator (think short business school) to help us figure out the logistics of running a NPO (non-profit organisation) and how to get our program funded. That was super helpful and we got a pretty big grant at the end of it. Now, we get a mix of funding from private foundations, personal donations and federal grants through the schools.
How many people were involved at the beginning compared to now?
Initially, there were three of us, and now we have a team of probably 25-30 volunteers as well as a board of directors.
“We exclusively work with Title 1, or low-income, elementary schools, so our kids are almost exclusively from lower socio-economic backgrounds”
What’s the socio-economic background of the kids you teach? What’s the average age? What’s the gender split?
Our target demographic is 2nd-6th grade, with some variance, with a pretty even gender split. We exclusively work with Title 1, or low-income, elementary schools, so our kids are almost exclusively from lower socio-economic backgrounds. In addition to this, a few of our schools are home to sizeable refugee populations, so we’ve really got a multicultural student base.
Are there any kids that have really impressed you with their ability? I know you had that clip in your ALBUM section of one of the kids from the program.
Yeah – our aim was never to operate as a skate school or breed the next generation of skaters, but to give them some mentorship through a fun and engaging activity in the hours after school. That being said, we’ve definitely had a handful of kids really take to skating and immerse themselves in the culture, which has been totally rad to see. Isaac from my Etnies part was one of those kids – we were there when he first stepped on a board, it’s been rad to see him grow into his style these last few years.