Stop by the skate park in the southeast corner of Parque de Vida and you’ll find a youthful reverberation – the sounds of skateboards grinding the edge of one of the bowls, the excited cheers after a successful 360.
For many of the community’s youths, the park serves as the centerpiece for a warm summer afternoon, a place to convene with friends, and learn or showcase new skills on a bike or board.
Building on the park’s popularity, a new program emerged this past spring, offering middle and high schoolers the chance to hone their skills in a safe, positive environment with designated skate coaches providing instruction and encouragement.
Funded by the School Community Youth Collaborative through a 21st Century Grant, Skate Club has become a haven for dozens of youths, ranging in experience level from beginner to veteran. Running on Friday afternoons from 3-6 p.m., the club provides a weekend outlet for students outside of school hours, providing a safe place for aspiring skaters during the non-winter months.
Passionate skater, Neco Escoe, leads the club, serving as the primary coach for the group which saw its inaugural sessions back in April.
Now, the club regularly sees more than a dozen student-athletes gliding amongst the various ramps and bowls in the park.
“It’s been way more amazing that I could have ever expected,” said Escoe, “and you can see how much of a difference it makes for the kids.”
While the club winds down in October, the foundation has been set for the club to hit the ground running again next spring.
Joined by fellow coach AJ Saiz, Escoe notes the importance of positive role models to keep the park as a fun learning environment for a community that values the park space.
“I grew up out here – it’s near to my heart,” Escoe added, “and if the kids are here and they want to learn, then I feel honored to be able to help them.”
Looking out over the big drop-ins at the park, it’d be easy for a beginner to get overwhelmed, but the club members impressed Escoe with their willingness to take on the challenges.
“Some of these athletes started from square one, and I remember how terrifying it can be,” said Escoe, “but they’re all learning and growing in confidence each week, and are willing to try something new and intimidating.”
Not only is Skate Club a place where physical safety is prioritized, but emotional safety plays a large part in helping the burgeoning skaters to take risks with the encouragement of their peers.
“During the club hours, it’s a bully-free, drug-free environment, and that makes a lot of the kids feel more comfortable,” added Escoe, “and the kids may change from being timid to thinking, ‘Everyone here believes in me, so I think I can do this’.”
SCYC, a local non-profit that has been serving youth in Montezuma and Dolores Counties since 1999, aims to support youth on a healthy path to adulthood by providing positive opportunities to as many students as possible. Escoe notes the importance of offering the club to students who may not be interested in team sports, but want to hone their athleticism and feel included in a group.
“This is an underserved part of the community,” said Escoe, “especially compared to team sports like football and baseball – so it’s important for the kids who want to get into skating that there are lots of other people who care about it, too.”
Cheers resound around the park as another club member performs a successful kick-turn.
“You can get so much further when there’s that positive energy, and it feels good to relay that to each of them,” reflected Escoe, “and that helps to build inner confidence and self-affirmation, which helps them to persevere to keep getting better.”