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Huntington native teaches Afghans to skateboard

By JO TROLLER
On October 12, 2012

Skateistan, a documentary, portraying a side of Afghanistan not focusing on car bombings, terrorism and war, but rather a side that showcases the youth culture that is growing, learning and skateboarding on the streets of Kabul.

Last night the audience at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center watched the documentary with a question and answer session with Huntington native Bryan Ridgeway, global strategic advisor for Skateistan, and Niki Williams, instructor at Skateistan.

It was really impressive to actually see some of the things a person from Huntington could do, Lauren Friedrichs, graduate counseling major, said. We always see the side of Afghanistan on CNN and Fox that only shows the blood shed, but because of a program like this it is a relief to see something positive being done there.

Skateistan is more than just a documentary, it is an actual program focusing on giving the youth of Afghanistan something to do. Skateboarding is one of the few sports that females are allowed to participate in in Afghanistan.

The first time you see them step on a skateboard you automatically see their mind start to work, Ridgeway said. They get the same mentality as a kid who is skateboarding in California and it just shows how close we really are.

However, this skateboarding program developed into a program that would educate the youth of Afghanistan based on what they want to learn.

We ask the kids what do they want to know, what do they want to learn, Ridgeway said. Whatever they dream up we will teach. If a student wants to learn how to take a picture we teach them the basics and set a curriculum around that.

The program has enlisted the help of several professional skateboards including Tony Hawk. The professionals got to meet with students and help build a program that educates the youth as well as gives them something to do.

The students are gaining the basic skills that will get them through life, Williams said. There is a thirteen year old who just landed a full time career because of the program.

After the demonstration the audience was able to ask questions concerning the program and what the possibilities for this program are.

We see something positive like this and only wonder what is going to come along to mess it up. Friedrichs said. With modern day government, politics and military it is surprising how much has been done with something as simple as skateboarding.

Currently the officials of Skateistan are attempting to stay and impact the lives of the youth as long as possible.

The exit strategy is Skateistan will possibly be taken over, Williams said. We want to stay there as long as possible because the more days we have the more we can teach them and the more they can learn.

The more time they can dream the more time we can teach them, Ridgeway said. If they can dream then they can learn and if they learn they can lead.

The documentary was the official kick-off of the Fall International Film Festival hosted by the Marshall Artists Series.

Jo Troller can be contacted at troller@marshall.edu.

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