Skateboard club to serve the city and county youth

Published 8:48 am Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition (CCDP) and the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation have been hard at work not letting dust settle on the City Council’s approval received last week of an agreement that would lead to the creation of a skateboard club mentorship program.

The agreement was in the form of a memorandum of understanding between the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and city parks and rec department that would establish a grant in the amount of $110,000 to be spread over three years for a “Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative.”

The grant was awarded to establish youth mentoring programs for at risk kids to help fight the opioid crisis that has been endemic in small towns, such as Elizabethton.

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After being offered the grant, parks and rec partnered with the CCDP to help come up with a way to best utilize the grant and come up with the mentorship that would best attract at risk kids.

“After a lot of research, we found that skateboarding was really a good fit here in Elizabethton because we do have a big community of skateboarders with no place to serve them,” said Kelly Kitchens, Parks and Rec administrative assistant. “We are one of the only cities left that don’t have a skate park…it is still a culture here that is very much active, but also has a lot of bad connotations to it. And that is something that we really wanted to combat because not everyone plays organized sports, not everybody is in a group sport like football and basketball, and those things are wonderful. Our kids participate in those sports, but not everybody does. A lot of people want to do alternative sports, such as skateboarding…”

CCDP Director Jillian Reece says the opioid crisis that has targeted city youth continues past lower income neighborhoods to affect the community as a whole. The ultimate goal of a skateboard club is to establish a place where any kid that has been impacted by substance abuse or maybe just being pressured can go where they are cared about.

The skateboard club is not projected to start until the spring of next year, Reece said. Both Kitchens and Reece say that the logistics need to be worked out, and boards and safety equipment would need to be acquired.

While the maiden run of the new journey will take place at the Mill Street recreation complex and is slated to only run for one day a week until it starts to pick up interest and more kids and mentors, it is the vision of both agencies to make the project more mobile so that it can reach kids in more rural areas that have no way to attend the inner city initial start up.

“In the future, we are really hoping to be able to move this structure around. It will be mobile, and so we are hoping to set that up in other areas…maybe not everyone can come to the recreation center. We picked that location because it is very central, but there are outskirts where people don’t have transportation…so we want to be able to take it to different parks and different areas where we have identified a lot of the at risk youth,” said Kitchens.

Reece said, “What I love about this mentoring program is that everybody can kind of just show up, no matter where they are, who they are, or where they are from. And when we get to the point where we match kids with mentors, the [NRPA] has provided some really fantastic framework for mentoring. So, we will be able to empower mentors with a full curriculum. It is actually, at least, a one year program of meeting weekly, so this is something that is really long-term and really sustainable.”

Persons wanting to sign up as mentors in the new club will be able to do so soon. The bi-agency initiative is seeking mentors that can commit to a year, and experience in drug addiction and overcoming it is extremely valued, but not required.