Red Deer teacher Everett Tetz was in South Africa last summer, hanging out with one of the most famous skateboarders in the world, when the idea of combining passions really solidified for him.
Tetz is now moving ahead with the Academy Skateboard Collective, a new nonprofit organization that will use skateboarding as a bridge between at-risk youth and existing front-line agencies.
“Whether it’s mental health, schools, social workers … creating that bridge to link it back to their programming. I know from experience some of these kids are quite hard to reach unless you’re kind of speaking their language, and there’s a real disconnect between them and the adults that are trying to help them,” Tetz said Thursday.
The academy is essentially an extension of the skateboarding class that he started at Glendale Middle School a few years ago. He wrote the stand-alone curriculum for a skate program at that school for Grades 6 to 8. He’s now vice-principal at Oriole Park Elementary School.
Tetz, 35, grew up in Red Deer and started skateboarding as a young teenager. He began his teaching career at a home for at-risk youth near Edmonton. When he started showing up with his skateboard it instantly became a way to connect with kids he couldn’t connect with in the classroom, he said.
His work history has been mainly in alternative schools and with kids at risk. The new academy will combine his passions of working with youth and skateboarding.
He has partnered with New Line Skate Parks, which built the Glendale skateboard park in North Red Deer in 2013. He offers support with skateboard programming for schools and communities looking to build skate parks.
Last year New Line sent him to South Africa to represent them at a school/skateboard park grand opening involving the international Skateistan organization. Skateistan started in Afghanistan, using skateboarding as a way to reach out to girls in Kabul transitioning back into school.
Skateiastan is also operating programs now in Johannesburg and Cambodia. It was in Johannesburg that Tetz got to skate with Tony Hawk, the well-known American professional skateboarder. “It was pretty exciting.”
It was while talking to Skateistan while there, he said the idea of wanting to use skateboard outreach with marginalized youth in Canada really took hold for him. If it can work it places like South Africa or Cambodia, it can work in Canada as a bridge for empowerment programming, he thought.
“We have our own history of marginalized populations.”
“It is effective in a way that some of our more standard programs kind of fall flat.”
Some of the work the skateboard academy will do will involved travelling to remote communities in both northern Alberta and northern Canada. He’s already had interest from First Nations communities in Alberta.
Tetz said because he’s only one person there has to be people in those communities invested in the idea. “There needs to be local champions to move it forward.”
The whole thing is in its infancy but is moving along, Tetz said. He wants to connect with Central Alberta front-line agencies and has already had some discussion with the City of Red Deer. The website academysk.com was launched a few months ago.
On April 21, there’s an Academy Skateboard Collective fundraiser at Bo’s Bar and Grill.