24 Emotional well-being, accessibility, outreach & activism. Skateboarding as a vehicle to achieve social change with Yash Presswalla from Impact Skateboard Club
Yash Presswalla from Impact Skateboard Club left a career in music behind to start a nonprofit focused on supporting youth. In this episode we learn why he’s chosen to use skateboarding as a vehicle for social change. We discover how Impact’s programming, empowers children and youth to develop healthy self-esteem, resilience and other necessary life skills on and off the ramps. We hear how Impact teaches so much more than skateboarding. How their focus on accessibility, outreach and activism allows kids of all abilities and backgrounds to become skateboarders and champions for equality.
If you want to learn more about Yash, Impact Skateboard Club’s, programming, or to send a kid to skate camp visit www.impactskateclub.com. Have an empty warehouse in central Toronto? Or a lead on a suitable space for indoor programming? Impact would love to hear from you. You can follow along with Yash on his mission to help kids learn more about emotional wellbeing and social skills through skateboarding and social action. On Instagram @impactskateclub.
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About the Host
I'm Jennifer Myers Chua. The Host and Producer of the Cost Of Goods Sold podcast. I'm an entrepreneur, a creative, a cookbook fanatic, mother. I have always been interested in hearing people's stories and I've been determined to change the world for as long as I can remember.
You'll find me at home in Toronto deconstructing recipes, listening to podcasts, enjoying time with friends or wandering alone through a big city. I'm excited to have you here. Let's do better, together.
[00:02:20] Jennifer Chua: Hello, everyone. And welcome. You’re listening to the Cost Of Goods Sold. I’m your host, Jennifer Myers Chua and this is episode number 24.
In today’s episode, we chat with Yash Presswalla from Impact Skateboard Club. We learn why Yash decided to leave a career in music behind to start a nonprofit focused on supporting youth. And why he’s chosen to use skateboarding as a vehicle for social change. We discover how Impact’s programming, empowers children and youth to develop healthy self-esteem, resilience and other necessary life skills on and off the ramps. We hear how Impact teaches so much more than skateboarding. How their focus on accessibility, outreach and activism allows kids of all abilities and backgrounds to become skateboarders and champions for equality.
Before building impact skateboard club Yash Presswalla was a working musician. Spending his twenties playing jazz and teaching skateboarding on the side. Teaching and performing were things that he enjoyed. And although he didn’t become the rock star, he once dreamed of becoming Yash had settled into a life of weekend music gigs and summer camps. But when Yash turned 30, he began to reevaluate. where would he be at 40? In a decade. Would he be playing covers at bars? Would alcohol have a hold on him? Would he be playing? Can’t help falling in love by Elvis Presley. Every day, every wedding, every weekend. Where was he going with this life?
[00:04:01] Yash Presswalla: I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was very insecure and and still kind of living with the attitudes of a teenager. I think in part, because of like the people I had around me, who I was influenced by and just the choices I made for myself, like where I chose to spend my time and what I did. That involved drinking and drug usage. But it wasn’t all bad. Like it wasn’t a disaster. On the surface at all.
[00:04:27] Jennifer Chua: This is not what he had wanted for his career and it wasn’t his life’s ambition. And he did know that he was a good teacher and that he was great with kids. And while teaching skateboarding was something that he enjoyed and was a good source of supplemental income. Yash had had a falling out with his business partner.
[00:04:45] Yash Presswalla: And, uh, That partnership didn’t really end up working out too well. It was always kind of fraught, but at this time when everything sort of changed and I decided that I didn’t want to be playing cover gigs for the rest of my life. And I didn’t want to keep drinking and because alcohol was abundantly accessible, just doing what I did. And I didn’t want to keep taking shit from people. I realized that I wasn’t even, I started becoming introduced to the concept of what boundaries even mean. And I realized that I was very much a people pleaser. So, When all of these things changed, I also decided to leave that business partnership where I was doing skateboard camps and programming and and that sort of all blew up in kind of a bad way, but I decided that I’m good at this.
[00:05:32] Jennifer Chua: So he established Impact as a nonprofit and we’ll chat about that decision in a bit. But the intent was that the kids who didn’t have access to programming, like this would have a chance at scholarships. And Yash was already well-known in the skateboard community. He had established himself with the parents looking for this kind of instruction. And after building a board of directors Impact was up and rolling.
But even after a couple of years of programming success impacts camps and workshops sell out in a flash. Yash is always trying to expand and push Impact Skateboard Club forward. Using a council of young people and volunteers Impact has been established as a positive and welcoming space for everyone. From summer campers to at-risk youth and those facing barriers to involvement.
[00:06:23] Yash Presswalla: The underlying goals were very different because it’s not just about like an athletic pursuit or physical exercise or, a recreational activity, but more about what the deeper implications of that are. And I also wanted to make sure that skateboarding was accessible to anyone who wanted to do it. It’s already a pretty accessible activity, at least in this part of the world, because we have access to skateboards and I’m like, there are shops around and you can get a skateboard handed down to you. and a helmet, if you’re a kid, and once you have that then you’re pretty much ready to go. You don’t need a team or a field or anything, except for some flat ground and your skateboard. But even still, that’s not easy for everyone to get. So I wanted to make sure that people could get skateboards, like especially young people if they wanted them.
[00:07:08] Jennifer Chua: And why is this so important to you? Like all the work that you do around equity, inclusion, advocacy, was there an event that shaped how you see the world? This.
[00:07:17] Yash Presswalla: My mom has always worked with kids with special needs. So, like inclusion and accessibility has always been a conversation growing up and, and throughout my life but I think the real motivation for me to do things this way was I just kind of looked back at where I got tripped up as a young person and what might have helped me. What I needed that I didn’t have that ended up causing a lot of distress and and like unnecessary complications. Like the lack of self-esteem without even really being conscious of it, the lack of knowing what my identity was or where it lay, the people pleasing thing, like all of that stuff was just a combination of the way I grew up and the people I was around, and the choices I made.
And there’s so many intersections there where I feel like positive male influences in my life, or, X, Y, and Z, that, that I might’ve been able to make better choices. So that’s what I’m trying to provide. Hopefully be a good role model. And I do that by just trying to continually work on myself and be the best version of myself in my work and outside of it.
And then just kind of be there for people. Young people in an inappropriate way where I had older people in my life when I was growing up, but they weren’t really modeling things that ended up serving me. So I want to try to model things that are going to serve the people that I’m working.
[00:08:46] Jennifer Chua: And what about making a difference? Can you remember a moment that led you on this path to wanting to take your life, to make difference for kids or people in our community?
[00:08:57] Yash Presswalla: um, I don’t think it was a moment. It just kind of seems like the right thing to do. This is maybe a bit after the fact, but being in a recovery program helped me understand what it means to not just like be sober, but to have a productive life. And most importantly, like the end of 12 step program, or like the last step is using what you’ve learned to help others.
And by giving it away is how you end up keeping it for yourself. So I was kind of already on this path before I got there but that just really reinforced like, oh yeah. That’s why I do it. It’s not, it’s not because I necessarily want to feel good about myself, but it feels like I do feel good being able to give back what I’ve gotten. And what I’ve gotten is like people who understand people who listen, people who have helped me without asking for anything in return.
I get a feeling of fulfillment from being able to do that myself. And it also helps me just grow as a person. So it’s not like I made some kind of selfless decision to like, I’m just going to be good and help people. It’s really like a full circle thing because I see it as when we help other people, it’s like, we’re helping ourselves too, because I see us as one big us. So it’s not like, oh, these poor unfortunate people that I’m helping, or these poor kids that would be so lost without me. It’s like, it’s a symbiotic thing where we’re all kind of in it together. And when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. That’s how I see it.
[00:10:27] Jennifer Chua: So why did you choose to go on the route of creating a nonprofit? Like you could have built a social enterprise business with a giveback program. I’m just wondering, why did you choose the path of nonprofit for this venture?
[00:10:39] Yash Presswalla: I had no idea what I was doing. I knew as far as business savvy went, I just knew to treat people. To like, do what you say you’re going to do, and if you mess up, fix it. Even when I was a business previously, I was never led by how am I going to make the most money?
The money was always just like incidental and like keeps you going, but not the most important thing. So being able to provide accessibility was kind of one of the core components when this was just an idea before it even became a real thing. And in my mind, and with the little knowledge that I had at the time, I wanted to be able to access outside funding so that for people who were not able to afford programs, people like staff still need to get paid. We still have, equipment to buy and there’s still money that needs to come in. But I wanted to be able to find ways to. Not have that financial burden be completely on the people who are participating. Particularly for those who can’t afford it. So the gears were going and I thought, well, nonprofits can get outside funding.
And I’d formed a small board of directors and one of the directors runs a non-profit daycare center. So she was like instrumental, especially in the beginning, but even now in just helping me navigate. How to incorporate how to you know, access those funds. And we never really did end up finding that much outside funding. Like we’re all pretty much self self-funded at this point, aside from grants here and there. But as we continue to grow and, you know, as we re-establish an indoor space and all these things that I want to do, we’re going to need funding from outside. And I know that it’s out there and it’s just, I’m learning as I go. But the whole idea of the nonprofit was just to be able to not have the financial burden lay on the people who are participating. So the families and the kids.
[00:12:31] Jennifer Chua: and what are your programs look like? Like what are you doing to support the community? How are you actually connecting with these kids. What are you actually doing with them?
[00:12:41] Yash Presswalla: Lots of things. So the in-person programming primarily takes the form of like lesson programs and the lessons, or like summer camp or weekend, hour long sessions where we’re learning how to skateboard, but. Deeper core component of like, what does this activity actually do for us? So how does skateboarding build confidence?
What happens when we all kind of like work towards something and develop these relationships with each other and become part of a community? Like what then, how do we leverage that to, maybe help others or even help ourselves or to relate better to each other, to develop social skills, all that stuff has kind of built in.
And I knew that going in to establishing as a nonprofit and kind of like having these ideas of deeper goals for the whole thing, but as we’ve gone along and the more I dig, the more I see the richness of this particular thing that I know well, that can help.
There are things like workshops that we’ve done. So like somewhat skateboarding adjacent, but maybe not necessarily. For example, we did this series a couple of summers ago where it was an art based series. Combined with skateboarding, somewhat haphazardly in cases.
But I I just reached out to people that I knew who had other skills. So for example, the first one was like a music workshop where I had a drummer friend of mine bring in a bunch of progressive instruments and taught the kids about just like basic rhythm and playing together and like listening and time, just in a fun, really introductory.
These kids who already skateboarded or who were interested in skateboarding, had them come out to this free workshop where they got to learn this new skill. And then they all got to skate together. So not directly related, but we could still do it all in same day. Another one in that same series was a photography thing.
Another one that we did, that’s another skateboard adjacent thing is like a graffiti workshop. So a friend of mine who is a really great artist came in and everyone had sketchbooks and he talked a little bit about lettering and. Obviously, like I really wanted to stress that graffiti is different from vandalism. And so you don’t write on things that are not yours. But there’s plenty of examples at the skate park of really great art and also not really great scribblings. And so they got to see what that means from somebody who does like murals and really puts time and effort into what they do. Compared to scratching a swear word on the skate park concrete. And so they got to practice their lettering in the book. And then we had them use spray paint on this giant canvas. And that was really fun for them too. We did a yoga workshop, that same series, so that kind of stuff has always been really interesting to me because then we’re helping them branch out and try new things that they might not necessarily try otherwise.
That following summer, I think this was the summer right before COVID. We did the same kind of thing, but had a couple of kids lead the workshops. So one of them was really into like tie dying. So I got her to teach all her peers how to tie and we just facilitated the, like the supplies and the t-shirts and stuff like that. And she was the one teaching everyone. Another little girl does like this awesome splatter, like Jackson Polack grip, tape artwork. So she’s got this really cool method. And I loved it so much that I invited her to do it, and I think she was like eight at the time and just a pretty beginner skateboarder too, but was so cool the way she was like teaching these teenagers, her like little technique for doing it.
And so we were able to provide the grip tape and like the paint and everything. And, and I, I really loved doing those because that put these kids. And in this case it was two girls. And like these leadership positions where I know they’re both super nervous and like wanting to do it, but also didn’t want to do it and ended up doing it. And it was good for everybody. Like everyone really loved it. And they had such a positive experience too, just from being able to facilitate and prove to themselves, they could do something like that. So I really love that.
Another really important thing that I do want to mention is the youth council. So that’s for 12 and over. They kind of started as monthly meetings. And my original thought is if we’re going to be serving children and youth, I want young people in this kind of advisory role so that it’s not just. me making the decisions about what we do and how we do it, but I want their feedback of like, what do you guys want? What do you need? Or what do you think young people need? And so it started like that, and that is part of the role of the council. It’s kind of just became like a safe place for them to talk about things and discuss whatever’s affecting their lives. So there’s been all kinds of. Awesome conversations.
And some people are really active participants and talk a lot and some just come and sit there and listen the whole time. But you know, talking about what’s going on at school, talking about like addiction talking about all kinds of discrimination. Stuff that’s maybe that I might not bring up to like a six or seven year old, but that is very relevant and real for teenagers. And they don’t have other places to talk about this kind of. So just even giving them a chance to share, it’s not like a lecture thing. We can introduce a topic and you can speak on it and I can share my experiences with them and hear what they have to say about it. And that’s been really awesome too.
So some of the kids in that council don’t even skateboard. Like they they’re just not into skateboarding, but they still come to that because they know it’s a safe place for them to be, and they can relate to other people and build relationships and. My role, there is just kind of like the caring adult. That’s not overbearing, but also going to keep things from going off the rails.
[00:18:21] Jennifer Chua: Now when I was a teenager in the 1990s, there was a lot of us skateboarding, but there was not so many. Kids around, like, I never saw children’s skateboarders until I grew up and have a child skateboarder of my own. What is the skateboard scene look like in Toronto these days?
[00:18:40] Yash Presswalla: It’s so different. So it’s the same when I started there weren’t any skate parks really in Toronto. We were just like skateboarding on the street and generally like 6, 7, 8 year olds aren’t left to just run the streets. I think in general. I was probably like 12, 13 when I started being able to go out by myself and hang out with my friends and just come home before dark or whatever.
And it was very much this, I guess gatekeeping is the word that comes to mind. It’s almost like, I felt like you have to be good before you can even like show yourself at a skate spot or, or like be around those better skateboarders. Not that I ever really felt intimidated because I started skateboarding with a group of friends and there was like a crew of us.
So I could imagine it would be different if I was just really into it and started solo, which a lot of kids do. But I never felt that intimidation so much, but I definitely felt Like a bit of anxiety in that these older guys were okay. Skating with us, but I was still like, I was trying to seem cool around them or maybe I would allow things that I wasn’t okay with just because I didn’t want to like rock the boat or because I want it to be accepted. I just stayed quiet when I maybe should have said something or I may be stuck around when I should have left. Because I didn’t, I had no idea how to like, trust my. Or that my instincts maybe were correct. And that the thing all around me was not the right thing to do. But I ended up hanging out with these older guys and they, they were friendly in a way, but it was that kind of way where they’re like, they’ll let you hang out with them, but they’ll still bully you kind of thing.
And, but in my mind, at the time that was a win because I had these cool, their friends who are like awesome at skateboarding. Today that’s a lot different because there are first of all skate parks. So that’s cool. And a lot of parents are actually really involved with their kids. Whereas my parents were by no means like neglectful, but they would not have had, even if there were skate parks, I don’t think they would have had time to like spend eight hours there with me while I just like tried tricks all day. And some parents I see at parks do have that ability. I know not most of them, but they’re still this, this it’s pretty common for like parents to bring their kids to the park. Sit on the grass or pull up a chair and just kind of like read or do work or whatever it happens to be. But I was just not that kid.
I would not have been okay with that because I would have wanted my parents far away from what I was doing. And I’m not, I think there’s plenty of reasons why, and I won’t, I won’t go into all of them, but it’s just cool to see that skateboarding is not kind of seen as that. Degenerate thing as much anymore.
It’s, it’s a slow climb, but it’s coming around to that. You know, it’s like a lot more legitimate in the eyes of non skateboarders, I think. And part of that has to do with like the kids involved in the families involved. And the fact that skateboarding in and of itself is totally wholesome and like amazing and such a, a great learning experience in all kinds of ways.
But it wasn’t quite that. Even with the like trying and failing and getting better at something and the way that it builds your confidence, that didn’t really apply to me because nobody pointed out to me that, Hey, you really worked hard at this and you succeeded. Maybe you can do that for other things like that. There was no connection there. So I missed the boat on that lesson kind of. And so I think just talking about it or introducing kids to these concepts. Okay. Can be really helpful, but if you don’t talk about it, then it’s a missed opportunity.
[00:22:07] Jennifer Chua: Social action and activism is a big part of what you do as well. Can you speak a bit more to why that’s so important and how skateboarding can be a vehicle for social change?
[00:22:18] Yash Presswalla: So the way I see it is that skateboarding is a community. And it’s a really strong community in a lot of ways, because we have this shared experience of like struggle and pain, like literally when it comes down to it, there’s a lot of things where people can develop comradery and rapport, like on the music side of things, I can relate to other musicians because we’ve kind of spent the time working toward these similar goals.
And so if I see somebody that kinda knows what they’re talking about, musically, I know that they’ve had that shared expense. where skateboarding’s a little bit different because in order to get that shared experience, you really have to hang on through some tough times and like tough times being physical pain, a lot of time, you know, like falling and, and just even the frustration of so much failure just to get a little bit of success. In my experience that really brings skateboarders together. To the extent that like I can go to a country. They don’t speak English. And if I have my skateboard and see other skateboarders, like I’m automatically in that crew, I can go up to them and feel comfortable talking to them, or like using my hands to communicate and more than just like skateboard with them. It’s given me like places to stay in different countries or advice on where to go, where to eat, where to, you know, like where the different spots are. So that’s cool. And so with that shared experience and that like sense of community, I think by extension, we have a really unique opportunity to leverage that community and mobilize because together we can do more than we can on our own.
And so what I try to do with the young people, or at least what I try to introduce them to and provide resources and opportunities is for them to use the community that we’ve already got to stop. To go out and help each other and help others outside of the community. So that comes in the form of like, advocacy for homelessness and just reinforcing that you don’t have to do something big and grand for it to matter that even small things matter.
So we’ve done things even with the little guys working with other organizations like Elizabeth Fry comes to mind, which is a nonprofit. Supports women who are coming out of criminal justice system. And a lot of the time those women are incarcerated because of crimes related to abuse by men or their partners. And so this organization kind of helps people who are coming out of prison or jail and and a lot of the time they’ve lost access to their kids or, there’s all kinds of restrictions. So even things like writing mother’s day cards for those ladies from the kids can be such a, an easy, small thing for us to do, but that can be so meaningful for somebody who’s struggling.
And so that’s something that as individuals, we could do that, but as a community of skateboarders, I mean, that’s something we did with the littler kids, but even they can understand that people who are having a hard time, even just like a little card from you can be really meaningful and that’s empowering for the kids too.
In terms of the stuff that we’ve done around homelessness that’s really kind of taken off during COVID too, because of the encampments that were set up in different parks. So it started with collecting. Supplies for care kits. So just like basic stuff that people could use, like clean socks or hygiene supplies or whatever. We were able to put that together through different donations that the youth council put together. And I was able to leverage some of our contacts. And so they assembled these kits, which was the original idea, but I even had a couple of them go out with me to the encampments and get to hand them out and meet people because it’s not just about giving things.
It’s about realizing that like, people who are living in an encampment are not different from us. They’re not a different kind of human being. They still have the same, like wants and needs and they, have a lot of the same struggles. So it’s, I think we can understand that intellectually, but actually being able to go out and talk to folks and just have a normal conversation. That’s not about like, oh, so you’re living in a tent. How’s that going? It’s like, we can just talk about the things that you talked to anyone about. That’s really been awesome for me. And I know that it’s been impactful for the kids who were able to do that with me too. The skateboard community is so tight knit in a lot of ways, and there’s just such great opportunities there to leverage that at solidarity and pour it out.
[00:26:44] Jennifer Chua: And I follow you on social media and have seen all of the things that you’ve done with rallies and events to support everyone from refugees to the queer community, to those struggling with mental health. Why is this important to you? Why do you choose to use impact to help these communities as well?
[00:27:04] Yash Presswalla: um, I guess it’s just an extension of, of what I care about and it starts there. When I start talking about it, I can see that a lot of the kids in our orbit also care about these things. So in a way, I don’t think this is like the intention behind it, but just the result is I’m influencing other people to either think about these issues or to, go out and change the way that they do things too.
But the, I guess the reason is just again, cause it’s the right thing. And everything is connected in some way. So like the mental health is connected to the inclusion is connected to discrimination and it’s connected to like helping people who are struggling because we are all those people, like we all struggle in different ways. So developing empathy I think goes a long way, and it’s not just about this issue with that, but it’s all kind of one thing. Which is we are all people and it’s like try to treat each other, right. Even people that we might not necessarily get along with, or even that we like play an old don’t like we can still see them as like human and worthy of respect and care and dignity.
[00:28:14] Jennifer Chua: And when you began to look into maybe community services or supporting children, did you have any realizations surrounding how we are supporting kids in our society? There may be disadvantaged in some way. Like what are the costs to how we are treating kids that need our help in, in our society currently?
[00:28:37] Yash Presswalla: That’s a really good question. And it can be actually for me a little bit overwhelming and. I know sad at times, because there’s only so much that we can do as like, youth leaders or whatever. I’m not every kid’s parent and they need their parents to fulfill certain rules that, that are just not appropriate or possible for me to fulfill.
Even though sometimes I really want to, if I think that they’re not getting what they need, but that can be hard. It’s just kind of accepted. Not everyone is getting what they need so I can do my best, but it’s not ever going to be like world saving stuff and that’s okay. But it is heartbreaking at times to deal with I think what I can bring to the table or not even me, but what skateboarding can really bring to the table is that it’s, it can be such a process of self discovery.
And I think that’s something every. It needs to deal with, or it needs to experience in their home, you know, and unfolding. I really come back to the fact that it must be so hard to be a kid growing up with everything we have going on right now. I guess every generation can say that, but just like internet and social media and like lack of person to person interactions.
Or just the fact that they’re so different from pre-internet times. I see that play out and the effects of that, the negative effects of that in a lot of ways some of the positives are that there’s a lot more acceptance and knowledge of like mental health issues and and what discrimination really is.
And, and we’ve kind of been able to tighten up on a lot of things that were wrong, but totally socially acceptable when I was. But the flip side is that kids are super anxious, depressed, and, and really struggled to form relationships that are meaningful and, and real. There’s like a lot of surface level posturing and performative kind of everything going on.
And I think a lot of that just comes from the fact that. We don’t really have place to be bored anymore, you know? And I think from boredom kind of comes that, like, you kind of sit with it and it’s uncomfortable and it’s like itch. And from that, you can figure out like, well, I’d really like to do this, or I’d like to pick up an instrument draw or, but it’s so easy to avoid all that now, but I just like scrolling or, or just mindlessly spending time on your phone or on the.
So, so much so that we not only stifle that kind of natural growth that I think happens for most people, but we actually like regressed in a lot of ways. And I noticed that for myself too, even though I didn’t like grow up with that for my early childhood, but I really I’m constantly checking myself.
Like I need time to just rest and unplug and be still because rest isn’t like watching a show or. I like scrolling Instagram. It’s like, it’s actually spending time with myself and it’s, I think so vital and necessary. And I, I think that’s something that we need to emphasize more, especially for young people, but for everyone.
[00:31:55] Jennifer Chua: And how else have you seen this work impact the kids and the teens that. you’re spending time with? Have you seen any really profound changes in them as a whole, like as a little collective.
[00:32:05] Yash Presswalla: I guess I frame it more as individuals, but there are a lot of them, so they form a collective and I’ve seen it play out in just having these relationships that, you know, over the months and years just the conversations start to change the questions they asked, start to change. And again, as individuals, I I’m really encouraged by times when, when the conversation kind of references or mirror something that we’ve talked about once before.
And I can tell that there’s been like a thought process and time spent with the idea and it comes back around full circle. It’s just cool to see. It’s cool to see how much young people are capable of. Because I know that again, intellectually, but I think we discount them a lot, especially like children.
There’s this kind of adult switch that goes off for a lot of people. I think it’s like, oh, they don’t know what’s going on or they don’t really get it. But they get a lot more than we often give them credit for. And I think just. Acknowledging that to them and giving them choices and giving them as much autonomy is like, as, you know, it’s as appropriate and, and helpful to them.
Uh I’ve I’ve been surprised and I even expect it. And I’m still surprised. So just seeing, yeah, like with our kind of core group that I’ve known for a few years now, seeing that whole group kind of like elevate their mental state and their attitudes toward things. Ability to understand the world around them is, is really awesome and totally inspiring because I’m still trying to do the same thing.
[00:33:50] Jennifer Chua: And how about us like you and me as a small business owner and the owner of a nonprofit or the listeners who maybe are in the same category, how can we best support the adults of the future?
[00:34:01] Yash Presswalla: That’s a good question. And I think it comes back to at least what I’ve settled on at this time. My answer might change a year from now, but I don’t think it will. It’s just that the best thing that I can do to help anybody is to work on myself. In recovery, they there’s like a lot of phrases or sayings that go around and one of them is that you can’t give what you don’t have.
So. If I can be my best self, then, then I can pass that along because young people in particular have a really good bullshit meter and they can tell on an instinctive level when somebody’s faking it. And it’s sad and you know, it’s kind of disappointing a lot of the times, but a lot of people and especially in nonprofit world or a say they’re doing something and don’t actually do it.
And it’s kind of just about the image of doing something. And so I think just being authentic is the best thing that we can do and encouraging young people to be authentic and true to themselves. But you can’t do that if you’re not true to yourself. And I think that goes same for raising kids and same for influencing peers, our own age or older, or.
Just being the kind of person that that you would like to meet. That’s my take on it.
[00:35:18] Jennifer Chua: So in your journey with impact skateboard club, have you encountered any really big challenges like COVID or otherwise? Has there been anything that’s just been really, really challenging and difficult to get through?
[00:35:32] Yash Presswalla: Yes. I think that perhaps you and a lot of people who might be listening to this could even relate, but letting go has been the. Letting go of control and and I’m still very much in the process of that letting go. But in the sense of, I don’t want to be integral to run the show. I want this to be able to flourish with or without me.
And so I’m kind of trying to build the foundation as solid as I can, but at some point it would be great for somebody else to take my. And up until that point, it would be great for other people who are like-minded to facilitate what I do. And so it’s not just like all me making the decisions and doing all the work all the time.
I think that’s important for several reasons. First of all, I tried to not get consumed by any one particular thing. There’s definitely seasons and, and the first few years of impact I was consumed and I think that was, yeah. Good thing and the right thing, but those are seasons and I don’t think it needs to stay like that.
So, finding the right people has been a challenge because I am not in a pretentious way, but I really set the bar very high and it’s super high because I believe that kids need to have good people around them, safe people not perfect people, but people that are going to. Not do any harm, you know, even in terms of their own personal attitudes that might come through.
I think it’s important that people kind of have that right heart going into this type of work. And unfortunately, a lot of people that work with kids shouldn’t be in my opinion, and that goes for like teachers and like, you know, recreation facility, facilitators and coaches and all that stuff.
I think there’s like a lot of inner work that needs to be done to be effective. And to really like help young people thrive. So again, not being pretentious, I haven’t done all of that work that I think should be done, but but I’ve definitely addressed a lot of things and like the me of 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t hire today to work with kids.
You know, not because I was like unsafe. But it’s because there’s a lot of stuff that I needed to deal with before I could give it to somebody else. So that’s been a pretty big challenge. The first of all the letting go and the second part of that is like just finding the right people at the moment.
I’m really, really happy with the team that we have. It’s pretty small, but but I trust them all and and they do awesome work and I’m just like really great. For all our crew. But I’d like more of them and I’d like, I’d like people to take on more than just an instruction role or more than just a programming role, but more like a, an administrative and like a visionary role as well.
Cause I, I think I have good ideas, but I also know other people have good ideas that I have not thought of yet. And so it’s important to, to bring people in, especially like young adults who are closer to the age group of the people that will be.
[00:38:36] Jennifer Chua: Yeah. And I’d like to learn more about your clubhouse. So unfortunately you had to shut down your physical space. I’d like to learn why you had to shut it down, first of all, but why is having that physical space so important to impact in your overall goals?
[00:38:51] Yash Presswalla: First and foremost, it’s just a skateboarding space for the winter. Yeah. Necessary like this is, it’s not just like a fringe, you know, recreation, hobby, or a sport it’s it’s mainstream now. And so many people participate in skateboarding and get so much out of it that I think it’s pretty ridiculous that we don’t have more infrastructure for it.
And I think it’s just that. We’re kind of running a few years behind. So skateboarding has grown a lot in popularity and it does come in waves, but we’re at like, you know, a peak of one of those waves. And I think it’s still going up and it takes a little while for like policy to fall into place behind that.
So I think we will see more infrastructure. It’s encouraging how many outdoor parks there are and how much and, and the plans to create more. But the indoor thing is really an issue here where we live. Half the year, outdoor skate parks are not viable. They’re not, you can’t use them when there’s snow on the ground or when it’s wet or even when it’s super cold.
So, having that indoor space is just for the skateboard community at large, like forget about impact or kids. We need them. There’s not enough, not nearly enough. There’s one spot in Mississauga and there’s another spot in Scarborough. That’s pretty. Not enough for the community of skateboarders that there are in the city and there’s nothing in the middle.
So I’m speaking for myself and for this organization. And what, what the goals of, of impact are it’s important to have the space, not only to just give people a place to skate, but to foster an inclusive community and really have people whose values are aligned in the same way. Have a place to get together and meet and plan and do and flourish.
So I see a facility like you called it a clubhouse. And I think of it as like a youth space, more than just an indoor skate park, because when we briefly had our indoor space, I really wanted it to be like a safe place for people to come and sure. Escape, but also just to like, be with the friends and hang out and do the things that young people like.
But in this, you know, with this kind of like air of supervision where it’s not, they were just going to like party, like I did when I was a kid. But also not where the, where you would be like shunned for doing that either. It’s like just an environment where you can come and be exactly who you are and you don’t have to put on the airs.
When I was younger and started skateboarding, there was actually one skate park, right. Downtown. And and it was awesome and like grimy and gritty and like all the things you would think of for like a nineties, early two thousands skate park. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t where I would bring an eight year old.
And and I think the places like that do have their place too. And it’s cool. Like maybe teenagers and young adults don’t want to hang out where eight year olds are going to be hanging out. And that’s fine like that. But what I’m trying to do is create a space where everyone feels comfortable and, you know, maybe older people would want to go somewhere else after, or, or do something else, or like be in a different kind of environment as well.
But I want to try to make something that’s like equally accessible and comfortable for whoever comes through. And and beyond that, I want to be able to provide more than just skateboard programming, but my background’s in art music. So like, some kind of facility for that. I think fitness and nutrition are so important.
I think like so many young people, myself included are into like music and production and like digital arts. And so having facilities and spaces for all these things is kind of like the dream. And on top of that, even having a place where people can get their first employment, like a small cap, Coffee shop allowing area, a place where kids can like, you know, just instead of hanging out at a library or a coffee shop, they can come do their homework or, you know, like play games or chat with each other or apply for university or apply for a job and have adults around them that are safe that can help them with those things too.
So that’s kinda like the vision I have right now and it’s all these really awesome. Pie in the sky ideas, but I know that those can come together too can happen. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it happen. And I’ve like seen the end result of it too. So, I’m really encouraged and, you know, yeah. Money is a huge issue, especially because the place has to be so big and we want to have it like within the city of Rome.
And that’s a challenge too, but I don’t really focus too much on why I can’t do it. And more, just try to look for ways that we can. And just take it one step at a time, because in my experience, things will fall into place. If you just prepare and have faith and believe that it can work and work for it.
[00:43:48] Jennifer Chua: And the children in our community, the adults of the future, the kids that you’re serving, obviously I usually ask, how do you think that your work is supporting these kids, but like it’s obvious that your work is supporting these kids. So based on your interactions with these kids and all of the works that you’re doing, that you’ve been doing, are you hopeful for the future?
[00:44:10] Yash Presswalla: I am super hopeful and encouraged. The conversations that I hear happening, or like the topics that come up are so far beyond the kinds of things I would have talked about at that age or that my peers would have talked about. They’re, you know, young people are so thoughtful and and so aware of life around them.
That’s not to say that they’re infallible or like fully immersed in everything that’s going on. Yeah, I’m not trying to say it and him and I in an idealized kind of way, but they give a shit about what goes on in their world. And and so many of them are empowered to do something about it. And again, like it doesn’t need to be something grand.
It can just be a small action, a small word an attitude. And it just, it builds on that. So it’s, it’s been really cool to see. Just how deep of an understanding and more important than you caring they have for each other and, and the world that they’re inheriting. Yeah. And it’s just, it’s so striking sometimes when I stepped back from it for a second and just, you know, do a quick contrast of what was going on with me at that age. Like I had so much less of that kind of self-awareness and that care for the bigger picture. So I’m really, really hopeful and encouraged by that.
[00:45:32] Jennifer Chua: If you want to learn more about Yash, Impact Skateboard Club’s, programming, or to send a kid to skate camp visit www.impactskateclub.com. Have an empty warehouse in central Toronto? Or a lead on a suitable space for indoor programming? Impact would love to hear from you. You can follow along with Yash on his mission to help kids learn more about emotional wellbeing and social skills through skateboarding and social action. On Instagram @impactskateclub.