Seattle, Washington is as aesthetically pleasing as a bunch of metal can be, framed by beautiful peaks and reflective waterways that become luminous when the sun peaks through ever-present layers of gray clouds. Well-dressed and groomed business types move through the meticulously manicured city blocks on their way to appointments with titans of the technology industry. And with snowboard brands like Mervin, K2, Ride, and Capita calling Seattle home, you can't throw a bag of coffee in this town without hitting a snowboard icon.
Just beyond the shadows of its skyline hides another side of Seattle. This isn't the part of the city that boasts six-figure salaries and private college educations. It's the part of the city where hard working people who appreciate the value of a dollar have to break a sweat to get it. Neighborhoods like these are often branded as "low income," "projects," or "poverty stricken." But the truth is that though some of these areas have higher crime rates than their high-income counterparts, they also are filled with people who carry human values like creativity, passion, loyalty, and love like badges of honor.
In January of 1995, a young snowboarder named Jay Bateman was shot and killed in Seattle's White Center neighborhood. The community was outraged by this murder and saw it a call to action. The Service Board was created, with the help of community activists, with the goal of enriching the lives of young people throughout Seattle. It matches teens with mentors in a program that combines intensive community service learning projects with snowboarding in the winter, and art and skateboarding in the summer. The non-profit is located just over the West Seattle Bridge, housed in an old school building that has been transformed into alternative high school and cultural arts center.
Snowboarding has always been more than a sport. It's a community where people look out for each other. Those of us in it share bonds that people outside have a hard time comprehending, and most of us have developed a true respect for nature because we depend so much on it. Through snowboarding, we gain trust in ourselves and build confidence through progression. The Service Board realizes this and so snowboarding has played a critical role in their mentoring program since day one.
"Youth figure out quickly that snowboarding is not easy and in order to progress they have to fall." States The Service Boards Program Director Ashley Miller. "Perseverance is central to the snowboarding experience, and is something that they can draw on throughout their lives in countless other situations."
While other snowboard non-profits have found support through sponsorship from major companies within the snowboard industry, the Service Board has to hustle on a daily basis just to keep their doors open. This is somewhat baffling considering how long the Service Board has been around, and how in depth they go into the lives of the kids that they mentor. The youth here become family -- they are involved with the kids that go through their program here, all day, every day, regardless of snow conditions or what season it is.
The Service Board has been running two programs in two neighborhoods, but has recently had to consolidate them into one due to their current financial situation. They are looking at this as an opportunity to pull together and strengthen their foundation, but the unfortunate other side to this is they will have to have to lower the number of teens in their program this year.
"There is so much demand for programs like tSB," says Miller. "Each year we have about twice as many youth apply then we are able to accept. Unfortunately this year ... will run one all-city program and serve about one-third fewer youth."
Tomorrow, and the day after that, the staff at tSB will open their doors. They believe that the feeling that comes from helping someone reach their goals is more fulfilling then fame or money, and have given their whole lives to this program. These are the people who provide the inspiration that future generations will draw from. They believe in empowering youth, and that once you teach another human being about values such as confidence, respect, community, love, and perseverance that those people become, in turn, unstoppable.
Snowboarding the potential to become something more then just an activity for the financially fortunate, it can be a multicultural melting pot, and a foundation for a beautiful future. If you're interested in finding out more about the Service Board, please get involved here.