Tips & Advice
- 01 August 2012
- by Lauren Wethers
Mike Smith wasn’t planning on starting a national organization. He was an outreach worker that worked with homeless and runaway teenagers. His method of transportation, however, was unique – you don’t often see outreach workers on skateboards. Every Tuesday Mike would skate around the Lincoln, Nebraska area and hand out supplies to the homeless. It grew from Mike, to Mike and a friend, to what is now known as Skate for Change, a group of skaters that are committed to giving back to their community.
“It’s the most simple thing someone can do. Anyone has the ability to give something. Food, socks - even spending time with someone has the ability to bring change,” said Smith.
Skate for Change certainly seems to emphasize the universal ability to make a change. There are no qualifications for membership – all that is needed is the membership fee and the drive to fill whatever needs a community has. Whether you’ve just begun or have been skating for years, you’re encouraged to get on your skateboard and get out there.
It might be that ‘can-do’ attitude that gets so many youth involved with Skate for Change. Youth involvement is crucial to Smith.
“I believe if you can teach a young person to not be selfish, to give back...you are changing the way they think forever,” Smith said. “We are all so ‘me’ focused. If we can open the eyes of young skaters all over the world, we can really make a positive impact on our communities.”
The Skate for Change initiative also opens the eyes of the communities themselves by combating the negative stereotype skaters often carry. Many people automatically believe that skaters are trouble or up to no good. Smith’s organization peels back the assumptions and reveals that most skaters don’t fit that stereotype – they are caring people who want to do some good in any way that they can.
Skate for Change is still growing, and Smith has high goals for the organization. He hopes to one day see it occur all over the world, without any influence from him at all.
“I would love it if young people everywhere had an opportunity to be change,” Smith said. So what’s his advice for teens that want to make a difference in their hometowns?
“Start small and keep it simple,” says Smith. “Being a leader or bringing change doesn’t have to be complicated. Give out food, visit someone in a nursing home, clean a park...look at your community and see where you and your friends can make a difference.”