Youth development program builds character one board at a time

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CHICAGO – Courage and persistence are just two qualities that embody the courage and determination needed to be successful. Over the past 25 years, a youth development program has taught thousands of children these core values ​​in a unique way.

With their safety pads attached and bright green helmets in place, a group of 11 to 13 years old learn the basics of skateboarding.

But admins say it’s more than that.

“Our mission is to help children overcome challenges through board sports,” said Spencer Cotton, program coordinator for the Chill Foundation in Chicago. “So we skateboard, surf, stand up paddle and snowboard. “

Every year, 3,000 children around the world participate in the Chill Foundationunique youth development program.

“We have different young people who come from all walks of life. So, this might even be their first experience in a board sport, ”Cotton said.

The goal is to help them focus their energy in a positive way and find ways to overcome personal obstacles.

“A lot of things I’m going to focus on with them is making sure that, A, the confidence is there and that courage is there as well,” said Karina Campos, program mentor.

Chill currently offers programs in 24 cities in 10 countries around the world, including Denver, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, Grand Rapids and Chicago.

Through board sports, they focus on six fundamental values.

“Respect, courage, persistence, patience, responsibility and pride,” Cotton said.

Often times that means falling but not giving up.

“Having that courage is definitely vital in getting them through the skateboarding program and also throughout their lives,” he said.

“It’s very important to me that they understand that they are not failing,” Campos said. “They overcome this little challenge and if they fall, it’s because they are progressing.

Jalaya Williams had several falls that day.

“From the ramps themselves, probably four to five.”

But the exuberant 11-year-old has no plans to give in to half-moons or boards, and she wants to learn more tricks.

“Definitely learn more stuff. I learned to do like the one you love, flip the skateboard when you jump. I learned that one. I haven’t done this in a while because of COVID and other things. “

The program also aims to cultivate camaraderie.

“Being with the other girls is fun because we all help each other and neither of us laugh at each other when we fall,” said Eryn Gibson, 12-year-old participant. “So if we fall, it’s not sad because we’re just going to pick ourselves up.

Noble life lessons that we could all learn from.


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