By Jack Rubinger
By Jack Rubinger
Kids haven’t had it easy for the past two years with COVID-19 impacting fun, free time and school resources. Way too much time is spent in front of the TV and after-school programs are either too expensive for parents or don’t exist. Kids who aren’t physically active get bored easily.
Now there’s good news rolling in from the Rose City Rollers, who, in partnership with Active Children Portland, are bringing their SkateMobile into Portland schools, starting with Park Rose Middle School. This is a pilot program for kids grade K-8.
The truck comes equipped with skates with outdoor wheels, pads and helmets. As a safety precaution, each kid gets their own bag with their own gear. The program includes two hours of skating after school, plus an after-school meal, because nutrition is important.
“We want to reduce barriers to access, get more girls and non-binary youngsters involved,” said Rose City Rollers Executive Director Kim Stegeman.
“We want to foster social and emotional team building, confidence and respect. Kids have suffered during COVID-19 with isolation. This program gets kids moving and grooving.”
Kimberly Bergstrom, Active Children Portland, wants the community to know that the SkateMobile is available to PTAs and parties for underserved youth as well.
Roller skating has a kind of cool, non-tech nostalgia that’s needed today. There’s no electronics, no video, no buttons to push. You can go fast, be free with your body and make a lot of noise.
Unfortunately, Oaks Park is the only permanent outlet for roller skating in the Portland area.
For those who enjoy being with kids, being active and getting out, there’s a need for coach-mentors. “These are paid positions, too,” Bergstrom added.
Coach-mentors are the key to the success of Active Children Portland programming. Unlike a drop-in center, coach-mentors work with the same group of 15 kids throughout a season or entire school year. The paid positions are generally two to three hours a day, Monday through Thursdays.
Kiyauna Williams has been with the SUN after-school program for over five years and works with all the various partners and nonprofits to help deliver quality after-school activities for students. Williams has experienced first-hand the impact of various programs in youth development.
“Being able to do something active for fresh air after school is awesome,” said Williams. “We’re getting teachers involved too, because it’s good for kids to see teachers in a different light. It’s important to be physically active because childhood obesity is a problem in our community.”
“While several kids have skated before, some haven’t. The main thing is that they’re all having fun,” she continued.
Active Children Portland has been involved in the community for 10 years. During that time they’ve worked to reduce barriers to sports, increase health and nutrition opportunities, enrich academic engagement and provide a safe, mentor-led after-school environment for kids in under-served communities.
The program started with soccer for 100 kids at six schools. Since then, they’ve expanded to serve 32 metro area schools and sites for over 1,200 kids annually. They’ve added custom nutrition programming from the OHSU School of Nutrition, creative writing, service learning projects, STEM-based social entrepreneurship, and camps.
The Rose City Rollers mission is to serve women, girls and gender expansive individuals who want to play the team sport of roller derby, connect with an inclusive community, and realize their power both on skates and off.
The league consists of four home teams: an internationally-ranked travel team, two junior derby programs, a developmental competitive program and a recreational program with skaters ranging in age from seven to 60 years old. It is made up of over 400 smart, tough, accomplished women, girls and gender expansive individuals who skate fast, hit hard, and defy stereotypes about athletes in women’s sports.
Photo by Rose City Rollers