The Harold Hunter Organization Uses Skateboarding to Support Youth in High Risk Neighborhoods
By Melissa Wickes
July 29, 2022
Skateboarding is a unique sport that offers many opportunities for growth in children that you may not have thought about before—like movement skills, coordination, perseverance, and patience. It particularly offers a healthy outlet to many high risk youth in NYC—often keeping them away from participating in dangerous behaviors. For reasons like this, the Harold Hunter Organization makes it their mission to provide skateboarding experiences to children with emotional, behavioral and learning issues in at-risk communities.
The Harold Hunter Organization is the largest skateboarding nonprofit in NYC—utilizing skateboarding programs to transform high risk neighborhoods in all five NYC boroughs. The programs they offer leverage skateboarding in a wide range of ways to develop NYC skaters between the ages of 6 and 30 in social emotional learning, workforce readiness, and more. They focus on exposing at-risk populations to skateboarding to keep them on the right path—avoiding behaviors like gang participation, violence, and a sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, the organization aims to provide support, resources, and opportunities for alternative experiential education to those committed to skateboarding so they can achieve all kinds of success.
What Programs are Offered at Harold Hunter
All of the programs offered at the Harold Hunter Organization have one same goal in mind—to provide support, opportunity, and advocacy to skateboarders in NYC so they can reach their full potential both as skateboarders and people. They aim to harness the power of skateboarding to transform lives—and show at risk youth what opportunities are available to them.
Skate Camp Scholarship
Each summer, HHC provides need-based scholarships to NYC youth ages 15-18 to attend action sports training camps. Each camper attends camp with a local chaperone as well as all necessary gear, transportation, and spending money.
This program allows kids who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend skate camp for up to three summers—while fostering relationships between campers from disparate neighborhoods with mentors like HHF volunteer staff, interns, skaters, videographers, and chaperones.
HHF Skate Clinics are available to ages 6-13 in NYC neighborhoods where rates of disengaged youth are high. The goal is to expose at-risk populations to skateboarding as an alternative to violence, gang participation, and a sedentary lifestyle—all instructed by local skate instructors (18+) and junior mentors (15-17) who were once in HHF programming.
Digital Media Training
The HHF KICKFLIP Digital Media Training Program is a summer workshop for skaters ages 14-25 designed in partnership with Parsons School of Design and City Lore. It offers workshops with team-based projects with the goal of developing basic technical skills in digital media. Past workshops have included video game design, app development, web design, and digital filmmaking. The program connects skaters to mentoring and engagement with educators and skate industry professionals.
International Skate Service Trips
Inner-city NYC skaters ages 18-25 are given the opportunity to travel abroad on this unique social justice-oriented, experiential service-learning program. Service projects include both skate-related activities—like assisting in building local skate parks and providing skate clinics—and non-skate projects, like digging fresh water wells, planting trees, and painting murals. The goal of these trips is to empower youth to give back to the community, unite across cultural divides, and remind them that even with limited resources, they can still have a profoundly positive impact on the world.
Harold Hunter Day
Each year, Harold Hunter Day takes place in memory of Harold Hunter in the Lower East Side. The event aims to uplift the community through fun skate activities like cash for tricks, and offers free food and water to skaters.
HHF in the Classroom
HHF in the Classroom consists of an interactive Q&A session with a small rotating panel composed of a professional skateboarder, a skate industry executive, and a former skater working outside the industry. The program aims to encourage students to persist in school by exposing them to non-traditional career paths.
How Can I Get Involved?
Despite the incredible work of HHF and the resources available to them, they have trouble finding and keeping volunteers, as many nonprofit youth sports development organizations do. If you feel connected to the mission of HHF, you can make a donation to the organization or reach out about volunteer opportunities here.
Main image courtesy of Ryan Zimmerman, Chaz Miley, Akira Ruiz, and Liliet Reyes via HaroldHunter.org