Impact Skate Club is a nonprofit organization with a focus on inclusion and personal development though skateboarding and education. The founder, Yash Presswalla, has been involved in skateboard programming for over 10 years, running a successful summer camp, an after-school program at St. Alban’s Boy’s and Girl’s Club, and prior to that, at S.H. Armstrong Community Centre in Toronto’s east end.
Our primary goals are to spread skateboarding and its far-reaching benefits, make it accessible to children and youth of all socio-economic backgrounds, and use skateboarding as a vehicle to achieve social change. The three pillars of Impact are:
– Integrated education: activities and discussions that range from building self-confidence, honing determination and perseverance, community development and stewardship, and intersections of skateboarding with art/music.
– Opportunities for all children and youth to participate: accessibility to programming for all children and youth, regardless of race, colour, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
– Establishing a grid for social justice: through discussion and action, demonstrating social responsibility and providing opportunities to become involved in worthwhile causes, both locally and in the global community.
We hope to encourage the next generation of skaters in the city by providing a fun, safe learning environment to acquire and develop skills. For beginners, the focus is on proper stance, pushing, turning, and general board control. We also discuss and apply basic terminology. After that, we introduce going up and down ramps, adding turns, and learning to shift weight. Everyone progresses at a different rate, and while some elements may come easily, others might be more challenging. Once the fundamentals are established and practiced, we move on to tricks, starting with the ollie. Advanced participants will have an opportunity to refine the basic tricks and learn to combine them, as well as grinds, slides, and transition skating.
Through the lens of skateboarding, kids will also learn about creative problem-solving, fostering leadership skills, and community involvement. I have personally witnessed the benefits that this art/sport has had on kids, and the positive ripple effects that become apparent in other areas of their lives. Skateboarding is difficult, yet inherently noncompetitive, and therefore teaches perseverance, instils confidence, and is conducive to a healthy, active lifestyle.
In addition to the instructors providing guidance and mentorship, we want to empower youth to become mentors themselves. Many of the participants we have worked with have returned to camp upon entering adolescence to volunteer as Counsellors in Training. With Impact, we will provide volunteers with training on our policies and procedures, and encourage these young people to demonstrate active positive role-modelling to the participants. We believe that the effects of loving community instilled across a wide age-range will serve to enhance the sense of belonging, support, and responsibility felt by participants.
Yash grew up in the East York neighbourhood of Toronto, discovering skateboarding at age 12. At this time there was no infrastructure for skateboarding in the city, leaving only school yards, parking lots, and other low traffic areas to learn and develop skills. A small community of skateboarders did exist in East York, and when their efforts were focused and targeted, skateboarding slowly began to get noticed. The East York Skateboard Park was constructed after many years of petitioning and lobbying, and a wave of new skateboarders emerged as a result. The park is responsible for growing and strengthening the skateboarding community in the east end, and in the 10 years since its construction, several other parks have popped up in and around Toronto. More recently, the Toronto Skateboarding Committee has been established, providing a direct link from the skate community to the decision-makers within the city.
Founder and Executive Director
“Impact Skateboard Club was established after deciding that there was a real opportunity to uplift youth through skateboarding, and share some of the things I’ve learned so far in my life, which I wish I had learned earlier. I have been inspired over and over again by the tenacity and resilience of the kids I’ve worked with, and I wish to be as effective as possible at affecting positive change in their lives. Skateboarding is a perfect vehicle for me to to do that, as it exemplifies many of the things which I value most: inclusion, community, fairness, and developing self-esteem.
I have worked for the City of Toronto for about 10 years, where I ran a (now defunct) skateboard program at S.H. Armstrong Community Centre. Currently, I am teaching music at various centres across the city through Parks and Recreation. I am an assistant teacher at St. Alban’s Boy’s and Girl’s Club (Bloor/Bathurst) in the preschool and kindergarten rooms, and I have recently started running a weekly skateboarding program there, as well. I also work at Pegasus Community Project for Adults with Special Needs, which operates out of various locations in the Beaches/Leslieville area, enabling people with differing abilities to achieve increasing levels of involvement in the greater community.
I have a passion for helping people, and I feel greatly rewarded in doing so. The lessons I learn from the various participants I work with are deep and far-reaching. I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to do the work I do, and I look forward to continuing to grow in understanding and maturity in order to share the gifts I have been given, and receive the amazing experience and insight I gain from working with kids.”