Safe to Express: This is Ethan

For many of our students, day-to-day life can feel uncertain, even insecure. We provide a safe place from the outside world where they can feel free to skate, learn, play and dream. We’re aiming to raise $200,000 by the end of December so we can continue to provide children with places where they are free from fear.

Ethan told his story, in his own words, to Wendy. His name has been changed in accordance with Skateistan's Child Protection Policy. 

They call me Slim Dynamite, but that is not my real name. But this is because of my smooth transition while skating and my dance moves at the skatepark. My real name is Ethan and I am 14 and in the ninth grade. I have been skating for over a year now, I will tell you more about that later. I have not always been a good skater or a smooth dancer but I would like to share with you about where it all began.

Before I moved here, I lived in a neighbouring town that is a couple of minutes away from here. It was the most dangerous neighborhood for anyone to live, from gang violence to unsafe public spaces where kids cannot play and be kids. We are forced to grow up quickly, I had to be in a constant look out for my little sister - make sure she is safe, after all I am my sister’s keeper. During these times, I was fortunate to be involved in a recreational centre at a nearby community where I learned how to dance, I had been part of  the centre for two years. This space provided performance training for kids, but I loved dancing. I was a natural, this was the only thing that made me feel positive about life and a chance for me to express myself. Apart from dancing, I played soccer with my friends. School had also become exhilarating because I could take part in dance competitions.

Towards the end of 2017, my mom told me we were moving. I was happy but did not realise that would mean that the dance studio would be far away. So when I moved to this part of town, I was disappointed I could not dance or hang out with friends. After two weeks of living in this community, my little sister told me about me to Skateistan, she had been invited by her friends that live in the same building as us and she added that it was something to do with do with skateboarding. Out of curiosity, I went to check the space out. This was different, out of my comfort zone but it was a safe place for kids to be kids, the facility was just next door with a secure fence, securities and educators who facilitated the programs. I decided to register, I took the form home to my mom and she said no, I was disappointed. She was worried about us getting hurt but both my sister and I wanted to join. After I assured her I would look out for my sister, she said that we could both join. 

I struggled making friends here in the beginning. Everyone here was nice to each other for no reason. All my life I had to toughen up to protect myself and keep myself and my little sister safe, life in the city was not easy. I guess I was not happy about how life had turned out, change can be hard to accept at times. I felt like I had to start my life all over again and my school grades were not great. After a year of being at Skateistan, at one point my mother even threatened to stop me from skating if my grades did not improve. I guess, I was so passionate about learning how to skate that I forgot to pay attention to other important things.

I decided to join the science club at Skateistan to assist me with my grades, I knew I did not want to stop skating and educators encouraged me to see that I had the potential to improve my skating and grades at the same time. I enjoyed participating in the science club and skate sessions because they are fun and provided me with academic support.

Kopano, who is an educator at Skateistan, encouraged me to own up to my learning, that I should put in the work if I wanted to see results. He even has the “no class, no skate” rule. That really helped me to get back on track. 

Last year, I decided to join the Youth Leadership program at Skateistan which helps older kids learn life skills. The program taught us to take charge of our lives - to be the change I wanted to see and take initiative in running some activities at Skateistan. I decided to also assist in running skate sessions and homework assistance for primary school students, I enjoyed my responsibilities and this was an opportunity for me to share what I had learned. By learning about choice and responsibility, I started to see that it was down to me to work hard at school and improve my grades. By the end of the year I had made new friends, we played the Game of S.K.A.T.E and created target goals for new tricks to learn. I also participated in Skateistan’s  student show concert showcase where I showed off my dance moves. I love dancing but just did not know how great I am - when the crowd chanted Slim Dynamite! I was thrilled. My new life had become exciting for a change.

2019 began and I was so motivated about the new year and set so many goals of things I wanted to work on. This year had to be different and better, I continued working on my skating and grades through the amazing support and encouragement I had received from my Skateistan family, I wanted more for myself and to do my family proud. 

At Skateistan, I started attending career and education planning where I learned computer skills, problem solving skills and assisting new students to learn how to skate, I notice that new students found learning how to skate much easier when a peer coached them and it was  an amazing experience for me to share what had also learned. My favourite part of the program has been career and education planning where I learned about making good career choices, where I also learned about life after school and the importance of preparing for it. This meant that I could do that things I am passionate about like becoming a vet and a professional skater. The best part of the career and education planning was when we picked what we could study after school by using university prospectus.


Now I can dream of the future, and I know the steps I need to take to get me there.

We all need a place where we feel safe. Skateistan provides places where children like Ethan are safe to express themselves.

Donate today to help us create places where children can be free from fear.