How Learning to Snowboard Can Save a Teenager’s Life [Q&A]

STOKED inspires vulnerable teens through action sports. Founder and president Steve Larosiliere explains.

Sep 17, 2015


STOKED founder and president Steve Larosiliere

STOKED founder and president Steve Larosiliere

What’s the connection between action sports and at-risk youth? For the Steve Larosiliere, founder and president of STOKED, the answer is clear: action sports expose American teenagers to new perspectives, and when paired with mentoring have the power to change lives. By focusing on youth from low-income families, STOKED aims to level the playing field, by creating a sense of community for struggling students to feel success and joy beyond the classroom. In this week’s 10 Good Questions, Larosiliere tells Goodnet about the organization’s 100% high school graduation rate, monthly pizza lunches for the team and creative fundraising drives to keep the goodness flowing.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Our mission is to inspire teens who are the most vulnerable, to believe in themselves through action sports. We believe that riding a wave, building a skateboard, and gliding down snowy mountains can show teens that they are capable of greatness, despite the odds against them. Mentors in New York and L.A. from film directors to marketing professionals, who also have a passion for snowboarding, skateboarding, or surfing, take teens on day trips outside of the city and show them how to ride. From standing on a mountain top to catching a wave, we place kids in environments that not only change their perspective - it changes lives.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

For non profits who use action sports to work with youth, we adhere to the best practices of youth development. We use, screen and train coaches, we measure outcomes, and we engage young people for multiple years. What makes us different from traditional nonprofits is that we build an ecosystem of mentors, opportunities, and skills to help transform the lives of our kids. We take a quality over quantity approach to our programs.

3. Offices or open work space?

We have an open space - and we love it. It’s great for collaborating, looking at videos, and overall team communication. Part of our office is actually a gallery space and event venue called the STOKED Space. It's where we host events, classes, workshops, art openings, product launches, sample sales, and photoshoots. It's also available for rent for select partners.  

A group of STOKED participants hit the snow

A group of STOKED participants hit the snow (Photo: Zweli Campbell) 

4. What three words describe your organization?

Stoked. Motivated. Determined.

5. What inspires you?

These days, I'm inspired by keeping our 100% high school graduation rate. Creating more opportunities for our students to succeed in the future. Finding more companies to partner with, mentors to engage, and building a financially sustainable future for our organization. I'm obsessed right now with figuring out how to create revenue generating income streams so that we can cover our overhead in the next two years.

6. What is the best part about your job?

Creating new ideas, collaborating with my team, and finding hidden talents of people to bring out to the world. I love the fact that ideas that are hatched in our office can impact hundreds of students for the better.

7. Does your team eat lunch together?

Yes, at least 1-2 times a month we eat lunch together. In our neighborhood in Brooklyn, we have lots of great options... we're just a few blocks from the best pizza in NYC!

8. Facebook or Twitter?

Yes yes and yes: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A STOKED surf session

A STOKED surf session (Photo: Linda Lee) 

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization? 

We believe that riding a board, being surrounded by positive role models, and learning new life skills can be the key to closing the disparity between low income and middle class youth in this country.

10. How can people get involved?

People can volunteer to mentor. They can get their company involved. They can donate or they can fundraise.