Mitchell Moya spends most of his time skateboarding at home on his front porch because there are no legal places for him to skateboard in his hometown of Heavener, Oklahoma. But the Nashoba Youth Foundation is going to change that.
The Nashoba Youth Foundation is bringing skate parks to youth in rural southeast Native Oklahoma. The Foundation has been the driving force behind the construction of two skate parks. One is in Poteau, Oklahoma, called Skatepark off Broadway, which is about 13 miles from Heavener. And Heavener will be expecting a skate park as well called Nashoba Skatepark that will be built early next year.
“I remember countless times I was told I couldn’t skateboard somewhere because it was against the law,” said Moya, 18, who is Choctaw, Cherokee and Apache. “It is nice to now have a place to go where I can skateboard.”
The Nashoba Youth Foundation was started by Lisa Fabian who is Choctaw, Cherokee and Osage. She is a bilingual director for Heavener Public Schools and has been teaching for 15 years.
“I got so tired of seeing my kids who didn’t fit in walk around with their heads hanging,” she said. “I got tired of them not having a place to go since all of them don’t play basketball or baseball.”
Fabian wanted to make a difference and began doing research. In her research she found that the rates of obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, teen pregnancies, teen suicides and teen violence were shocking in Oklahoma.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, in Leflore County suicide was the second ranked cause of death among young people from ages 15-24 in 2002-2006. In 2005, there were 6,795 babies born to females under the age of 20. In 2007, 15 percent of children between the ages of 10-17 were overweight with an additional 13 percent who were “at risk” according to the Oklahoma State of the State’s Health Report.
“These kids have little to do and their self-esteem is almost nonexistent,” said Fabian. “I could not sit by and do nothing. If I go out of this world having made a difference in the life of one child then it was all worth it.”
She discovered different towns that offered a variety of outdoor recreational activities and safe places for their youth to go. The one activity that most of the towns had in common was skate parks. Fabian thought to herself that she needed to see one and drove 150 miles to Sand Spring, Oklahoma.
When she arrived she met Ryan Rodschwit who works with his father-in-law Greg Mize building skate parks. Fabian said Mize and Rodschwit’s goal is to bring professional concrete skate parks to all of Indian Country in Oklahoma and other places to help at-risk Native American youth.
“I thought to myself more must to be done in these areas to protect the future of our Native youth and youth in general,” Fabian said. After Fabian spoke with Mize for a while the two teamed up to make a difference.
Fabian then gathered her research and presented the information to the City of Heavener Commission who quickly approved both skate parks in Poteau and Heavener.
Soon after Fabian and Renee Farmer started working on an application for a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. On March 7 of this year Nashoba Youth Foundation (Nashoba means “wolf” in Choctaw), became a non-profit organization designed to develop and enhance education, health and safety among at-risk Native American youth.
Fabian wrote grants for both skate parks and sent them to the Tony Hawk Foundation who awarded the Nashoba Youth Foundation $5,000 for each skate park. They also donated Fabian helmets, stickers and other freebies.
Todd Harder who is co-owner of Red Paint Printing and Natives Skates has donated skateboard decks with Native American designs to give away to the youth.
The donations will be given away at the grand opening celebration of Skatepark off Broadway on Saturday, December 10. The event will include an appearance from professional skate boarders, contests, deejay, food and drinks, and guest speaker Marion Fry.
Fry is a Choctaw Tribal judge, an assistant district attorney and one of the nine Nashoba Youth Foundation board members. He is excited about the skate parks even though he was unsure of the idea when he first heard about it.
“I was real skeptical about having a skate park,” said Fry. “I really didn’t think skateboarding or rollerblading in this area would be a big hit with the kids but I was definitely wrong.”
Fry lives in Poteau and drives by the skate park every day. He is amazed to see how many youth are taking full advantage of the park and staying out of trouble.
“Not only are they doing something healthy, they are making friendships, helping one another out and it makes for a better support group,” said Fry. “I hope the skate parks will help change the statistics.”