Social impact stories are extremely important to me and I learned a whole lot talking to Steve Larosiliere, Founder and President of Stoked Mentoring with this interview for Men’s Journal.

“That was when I started to mentor foster kids—kids from…low income,” he says, before another noticeable hesitation. “I started mentoring Black kids.”

Larosiliere went on to found STOKED with Selema Masekela. Stoked connects kids with mentors in action sports to provide opportunity and access while teaching leadership. To this point, the organization’s used phrases like “urban” and “at risk,” but in the last month, Larosiliere has been more direct in that the majority of those he is looking to impact are children of color.

Larosiliere and I had a lengthy discussion that shed light on much of the work he is doing.

MEN’S JOURNAL: Can you give us a little more background on Stoked?

STEVE LAROSILIERE: In my community, I was surrounded by Black, Latino and Caribbean people like myself. But I went to an all-white school. So it gave me very fluid code-switching skills, going between different environments. So we have these Black and brown kids being mentored by people who live on the other side of town.

Action sports are mostly white cultures. I wanted Black kids and poor kids to see what life was like, the way other people experienced it. I just knew what action sports had taught me about myself. And I thought, “Imagine what these kids would learn about themselves.” They could be learning resiliency, how to take advantage of opportunities, see obstacles as chances to grow. I didn’t think we were doing social justice work, but we are. These kids never see the ocean and they don’t know how to swim.

I was working with kids who never get a chance to interact with different cultures and lived in Black communities with a lack of investment. The schools are underfunded, there are less resources, way too much police presence and a lack of opportunity. And therefore you have blight, frustration, and hopelessness. Organizations like Stoked are giving kids an opportunity. We’re giving them the skills, relationships and opportunity to do something.

Steve Larosiliere interview by Jon Coen for Men's Journal

Courtesy Larosiliere

Now with programs in New York and L.A., I’ve seen how action sports helps kids to reshape their identity as a surfer, as a skater or a snowboarder. Progression is the name of the game and you’re elevated by the people around you.