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What started as a way to collect and refurbish old skateboards for after school programs has become the full-fledged non-profit, Skate After School. The Skate After School program provides an outlet and opportunity for underserved kids to get on a skateboard with the help and supervision of skateboarders from their community. One such skateboarder, Ryan Lay, has been involved with the program for four years now. We caught up with Ryan to ask him a few questions about the program and to get to the bottom once and for all of how he became such a badass.

Hey Ryan. What’s your name and what’s your occupation? My name is Ryan Lay and I make my living skateboarding and running a nonprofit called Skate After School.

How long have you been skateboarding and how long have you lived in Phoenix? I've lived in Phoenix my entire life aside from 2 years in SF and 2 years in NY. I've been skateboarding for 19 years.

I heard lots of people move there to retire, is it only old people where you live? I live near the University , so it's quite the contrary. I'm probably the old person you're referring to.

What’s the most challenging part of skateboarding for you? The part where you flip your board into the thing and/or out of the thing - very difficult. Aside from that, just generally aging and pushing yourself; and learning new things/staying inspired while trying to avoid comparing yourself to previous skill sets or accomplishments.

Which impacts your skating the most: the "dry" heat of AZ, scorpions, or aliens? I've done my best to travel during the summer - makes it much more tolerable. There are a few indoor parks as well, but I kind of like the ebb and flow of weather and the atmosphere that accompanies it. Nothing is more stressful to me than 300+ beautiful days.

How did the Skate After School program start and was it something you started or just got involved with later? Tim Ward, one of the other co-founders, was collecting and donating refurbished boards to this community center in Mesa, AZ. I got on board with Bobby Green (owner of Pyramid Country) and we started doing consistent programming at low-income elementary schools. That was about four years ago.

How has Skate After School grown/changed since it started? Well it's completely evolved from a community project to a full-fledged nonprofit with a board of directors, employees, and a staff of over 20 volunteers. We've honed in on the services and programs we provide and the demographic we want to work with and impact.

Interview with Ryan Lay of Skate After School

What were your goals in the beginning for the program and how have they changed since? The goals are essentially the same: a simple gesture for you (a used board or an hour of volunteering), can have a profound impact on the life of an underserved child. We now have some mechanisms in place to grow our organization, maximize our impact and bring our program to even more kids.

Wouldn’t it be crazy if Skate After School produced some top pro skaters 10 years from now? It would be, and we've got a couple of kids from the program who are carving their own place in the skate community. We're not wholly interested in producing skaters though, it more so just happens to be an activity we know and have the resources to provide with relative ease. It's just something fun for them to do in the hours after school when perhaps otherwise they have nothing going on.

Were you a part of any kind of skate programs as a kid, like skate camp or anything? Nah, but I did grow up skating the yellow adjustable Mojo rails (later acquired and made famous by CCS). Mo and Joe Tackett were my neighbors - I remember skating the very first one in his driveway. I was always a medium-to-low setting kind of guy.

Do you have any good CCS memories of the catalog from those days? My first complete was actually a blue CCS blank with black CCS wheels; I shared it with my brother. Later, my parents bought me my own Sean Sheffey Girl board from their flag series out of the catalog. I want to find a photo of that board now! The tails were always so little on those boards.

What have you learned as a result of being a part of Skate After School? I'm still learning every day how to run a business, work with my friends/peers, work with people outside my immediate network (lawyers, principals, social workers, philanthropists, foundations), and also learning the intricacies, responsibilities, and rewards of working in child welfare.

Do you feel pressure to do more as the program grows? Certainly, though we're hesitant to expand too quickly without having the right practices in place. I'm looking forward to putting more and more energy into it. Tim has been amazing in terms of going at it full time and managing all the day-to-day stuff.

Has your skating or your view on skating changed as a result of working with Skate After School? Definitely. I think just in the growing process, any time you put energy into something outside of skating, you relate back to it in a totally new way (school, work, breakups, religious experiences). Skateboarding as a career is obviously a total dream come true, but it's also very self-obsessed; it's centered around crafting and selling your image. This is even more heightened in the age of social media. This, for me personally, gets exceedingly tiresome the older I get. I'm looking forward to detaching myself from that, growing Skate After School and focusing on providing a quality service for people who need it.

What’s the most unexpected lesson you’ve learned from being involved with Skate After School? I'll give the stereotypical answer of a parent and say it's the things that the kids teach you. It's the impact they have on your life and the way they can open up little morsels of yourself you never knew were there - a type of vulnerability I had never really experienced before.

What’s the most difficult part about running Skate After School? Expectation, responsibility, and fundraising. It's more just making sure the engine is running as opposed to just one specific task. I have so much support from mentors and our board that usually anything over my head can be resolved in an email or two. Bobby and Tim have been incredible, too, in terms of the perspective they offer. Making sure we are on schedule and growing and hitting all of our targets for the year - exciting though! And we've had so much support, I can't even believe it.

What’s next for Skate After School? Growth! We're looking forward to working more with the refugee population and building some bridges there to expand our program. We also have a collaboration with Etnies coming out in 2017 that I'm really stoked about - a shoe and a few shirts.

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