Sharing the Stoke at Hunter

Stoked gets a lift from Clif Bar


s the bus wrapped in graphics declaring the “Snow Party” pulled out of Union Square in the near dark, 14 students from underserved high schools around the city, despite the early morning hour and February chill, had expressions on their faces that can only be described as stoked.  And that, after all, was the idea behind the trip to Hunter Mountain, a collaboration between Clif and Stoked, an organization that empowers underserved youth in inner city communities through mentorship and action sports culture. Also along for the ride in the big blue bus: Clif athlete, professional freestyle skier and Olympic Gold Medalist Maddie Bowman, trading in a prime Tahoe powder weekend to share a little of her own stoke with a group of kids, some of whom were getting their first taste of the slopes, at Hunter.

Putting party politics aside.

This trip came about after The Clif Bar Family Foundation recently awarded Stoked a grant to do what it does best. And what it does best is take kids from high schools that often don’t always have all the opportunities and show them a little of the grandeur and excitement to be found through these escapes. Founded in 2005, Stoked currently involves students from 13 public high schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, all within communities that could use this sort of mentorship the most—the main goal being to get these kids out of the city.

Stoked’s Development Manager Valete Graham, said that one of the things he values is how each trip incorporates a mix of students from different schools, which provides them a chance to get to know one another despite their different roots, an opportunity that they otherwise might not have. At least not in the context of a ski trip. Graham has seen students go on to remain involved in one another’s lives in a positive way, keeping up with each other and supporting one another by attending important events such as high school graduations.

Our students’ passions extend much further than the slopes.

Stoked’s Valete Graham.

“We believe that when students catch a wave, land a new skate trick, or ride down a snowy mountain, they show themselves they are capable of greatness,” says Graham. “However, our students’ passions extend much further than the slopes, which is why they also spend time in the classroom, in corporate offices, and 1-on-1 with mentors turning those interests into tangible professional skills.”

On the weekends, Stoked hosts day trips to action sports destinations, focusing on snowboarding during the winter, surfing in the summer, and skateboarding during the spring and fall. Once a year, seniors get to take an overnight trip. During the week, they hold after-school programs focusing on college and career preparation. Additionally, students give back, participating in “Stoked to Serve” activities in their communities, various service projects including planting gardens, painting over undesirable graffiti, performing beach clean-ups and more.

Clif’s Cody Williams, and the crew from OvRride, a partner that hosts ski/snowboard trips and provides transportation to various destinations, also packed into the bus and later, when we arrived, helped navigate the gentle chaos of getting into the resort and outfitting a group of newbie snowboarders with equipment.

Maddie Bowman shared a little of what she’s learned in a career spanning several X Games and Olympic Gold in the ski halfpipe at Sochi.

After the first few runs of the day, students and mentors huddled in the Clif tent at the base of the mountain for a little lunch, warming up and telling stories, and to listen to Maddie Bowman share a little of what she’s learned in a career spanning several X Games medals and Olympic Gold in the ski halfpipe at Sochi. Wide-eyed students looked to her, seeking whatever advice she could offer before grabbing their boards and heading out for round two.

Maddie offers some pointers.

After their short break and led by Maddie, Valete and Cody, a group of students hiked to the park area to try their luck at learning various tricks on the rail—confidently putting Maddie’s tips to use and their personal skills to the test. This resulted in nothing but laughs, smiles, high fives and cheers for each other’s accomplishments. The time to head back to base, return rented gear and board the bus to head back to the city came all too quickly.

At the start of the ride home, Graham stood and told everyone about how at the end of Stoked events, the group always chooses to finish a day by giving kudos to one another. One by one each person on the bus offered thanks and respect towards those who contributed positively to their experience that day, whether it was one person in particular or the entire group as a whole.

When it was Maddie’s turn to give kudos, she surprised everyone by revealing that she had brought her Olympic Gold medal along with her and proceeded to pass it around for everyone to have a chance to hold and admire.

Later Maddie shared with us how much she enjoyed riding with the kids of Stoked. “Their positivity and supportiveness for those around them was contagious,” she said. “I was also very impressed with how the surfing and skating affected how they rode a snowboard.”

As the bus wound its way down the mountain roads, students posed for photos with Maddie and her medal, snacking on Clif bars and the morning’s leftover bagels and mingling with each other…happy, exhausted and most definitely stoked after another successful day out of the city and on their boards.