Did you know that the International Olympic Committee has for the first time included skateboarding as part of the Summer Games at Tokyo, Japan, in 2020?  A group of five KidWorks’ youth are especially excited about this addition.

They comprise the Youth for Active & Safe Communities (YASC) committee within our Youth Empowerment Network (YEN), a group of dedicated teens who develop, design and address issues that impact themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.

The five students are:  Jose Arguello, Melissa Guerrero, Irma Mateo, Edwin Ruiz and Evelyn Torres.

Skateboarding has been a key area of their focus for over a year now, says Maria Ruvalcaba, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator—Active Transportation.

“Active transportation—such as biking, walking and skateboarding—is how many of our youth get to school, appointments and other destinations,” Maria says.  “Being physically active is part of our advocacy for healthy diets and exercise.”

The five youth in YASC do much more than spend time on their skateboards.  They have become proactive spokespeople for sanctioned skate parks in Santa Ana.

“Santa Ana has just one skate park within the entire city,” Maria says.  “Our goal is a skate park in each of the six wards within Santa Ana before the Summer Olympics kick off in 2020.”

To that end, YASC has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council, Parks and Recreation Department and met with other elected officials.  They have also partnered with such skateboard advocacy groups as the Tony Hawk Foundation, Action Sports Kids Foundation and OC Ramps.

In October, Edwin Ruiz spoke at a walk/bike conference in Sacramento, where he shared his perspective that the streets are often dangerous for skateboarders, whereas skate parks are safe and sanctioned environments.

“My passion for skateboarding has grown ever since I noticed that it brings youth together as a family as we encourage each other,” Edwin says.  “This has motivated me to work on improving our streets and adding more skate parks to keep other youth like myself active and safe.”

“Funding for five more skate parks is far from finalized, yet our youth are committed to working through each detail and taking every step,” Maria says.  “Their latest effort is a detailed data gathering project within neighborhoods to assess attitudes and preferences by the community relative to skate parks.”

Maria says that in addition to skate park advocacy, the experience is providing our youth with valuable training in leadership and team work.

“Skate boarding can suffer from a less than positive image,” Maria says.  “I think our YASC youth are doing a wonderful job changing that undeserved image.”

 By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer