come to mind. One organization wants to change your perceptions, and in the interim,
"open your mind" to the wonders of snowboarding.
Meet Brian Paupaw, Founder of "Hoods to Woods," a non-profit organization based in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. In just a few short years, "Hoods to Woods" has managed to make an inaccessible sport, "accessible."
Here's our informative and insightful Q & A:
Q. What is the mission of "Hoods to Woods?"
A. The mission of "Hoods to Woods" is to expose inner-city teens to the outdoors.
Q. How long has this organization been around?
A. Three years.
Q. What is the gender/age split?
A. We work with boys and girls between the ages of 13-19.
Q. Do you offer information sessions so parents and their kids can learn more?
A. We provide parents with information on all activities, but the kids learn on-site during our day trips.
Q. How many kids can you comfortably manage?
A. Right now, we service 10 teenagers. We would like to expand our programs to more teens in Bedford-Stuyvesant when can get more funding to do it successfully.
Q. Do you have other instructors helping you?
A. We have volunteers who work with our teens for all activities.
Q. Is the program free?
A. Yes, all "Hoods to Woods" programs are free to teens.
Q. What about the uniforms and equipment?
A. Our equipment and outwear is donated. We get helmets and goggles from our snowboard sponsor: Giro (www.giro.com).
Q. Who introduced you to snowboarding?
A. I was introduced to snowboarding by classmates while I was a student at Parsons School of Design.
Q. Did you have any misconceptions about the sport initially?
A. Yes. At first, I was very apprehensive to do it because I used to think it wasn't a sport African-Americans participated in. I didn't know anyone in my community that did it when I was a teenager. Matter of fact, in the 80's, skateboarding was "looked down upon" in the Bed-Stuy, Brownsville and East New York communities. If you did it, people harassed you and questioned your "blackness" for doing it.
I fell victim and quit the first week of skating. So now today, it feels good to see kids in these same areas skating because now it's "accepted in the hood."
Q. Are any special athletic skills and/or attitudes required?
A. No special skills needed, just "attitude." Having a real strong determination to learn despite the difficulties you face your first day on a snowboard.
Most of the teens in Bed-Stuy have this within them because most of the time, they are watching people snowboarding on television and never thought they would try it. When these same kids enter the mountain environment, they are "fully charged" and every negative experience or self-doubt they had from living in a rough neighborhood disappears and the progression they display is "INSANE!" I have never in my life witnessed something so beautiful and empowering.
Q. Who is harder to encourage: the parents? the kids? both? Please explain?
A. It's harder to encourage some parents because they don't understand the mountain environment or may be nervous about their child getting hurt.
We put safety first and don't allow anyone to ride advanced slopes unless they display skills that show that they can do it safely. Luckily for us, every parent in our program is extremely supportive.
Q. I'm a mom so I worry about kids getting hurt. How do you address the potential injuries in the sport?
A. There is always the possibility of someone getting hurt. We ask that all of our teens be covered by health insurance. In the three years we've been doing this, we have had "no injuries" because our program is more recreational and the teens are not allowed to do inverted aerial moves on the mountain during our program.
Q. What have the kids gotten out of the program?
A. The kids have gotten so much from the program. A few of our teens want to go to college in Colorado so that they can be closer to the mountain.
To hear them talk about wanting to leave the neighborhood to explore what our planet has to offer is proof that "Hoods to Woods" works!
Q. How about the parents?
A. The parents show a huge level of pride knowing that their children are trying something new.
Q. Can you share any stories about any particular teen?
A. I had one teen that had trouble at school and at home. He came to us with a really "tough attitude" like a lot of kids from my neighborhood. Not even 30 minutes had passed before he was "all smiles" on the mountains. He had learned how to snowboard in just 30 minutes!
Q. What places have the kids traveled to?
A. We have to traveled to Mountain Creek, New Jersey and Big Boulder, Pennsylvania. All of our trips our day trips. We leave and return on the same day.
Q. Where are your favorite places to snowboard?
A. My favorite place to snowboard is Mt. Baker, WA. It's a very special place for me because it was my first "big" mountain experience. I stayed there for a month.
Q. What stereotypes do you hope to "smash" with your organization?
A. That people-of-color don't enjoy the great outdoors.
Q. Do you think kids-of-color in the colder states snowboard more? Is it just a "cultural" thing?
A. A lot of those kids don't get to snowboard because they don't have the money to do so, even if they live down the block from these mountains. I know white people who grew up next to mountains and had to "clip lift tickets" just to ride because it's so expensive.
Q. Does the sport need someone with a "Tiger Woods/The Wiliams Sisters/Terry Kennedy" type of vibe to make the sport popular?
A. That would be nice. LOL. We DO have great snowboarders like Stevie Bell, Ben Hinkley and Keir Dillon. I look up to these brothers for their contributions to snowboarding.
Q. Who are the popular snowboarders?
A. Shawn White is all people know. He rides extremely well and inspires a lot of people. But Travis Rice, Trevor Andrew, Terje Haakonsen and Jeremy Jones, are some of my favorites.
Q. What are your ultimate goals for "Hoods to Woods?"
A. To expose more inner-city kids to the great outdoors nationwide.
Q. Where can parents and kids turn to learn more about the sport?
A. There's a ton of information on the internet with lots of vides explaining things before you try it. When I started, I wasn't so lucky to have that much information available.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to share?
A. Yes. I "LOVE" what I do and I "LOVE" my community and want to see more "change in the hood" on a street level. I would like to see more successful Black people give back.
Q. How can readers of this blog help your organization specifically?
A. They can make a donation to "Hoods to Woods" and help spread the word to the community.
Readers, please visit www.hoodstowoods.com to learn more as well as make a donation to this wonderful organization.
Thank you and be sure to "spread the word!"
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