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A positive event: First Skate Jam builds on needs of youth

Navajo Times | Cyrus Norcross
Ryan Todacheeney does an ollie four-stair during the 1st Annual Skate Jam in the 18-and-over age group. Todacheeney has skateboarded for 17 years and said, “I would like to be a positive influence for young skaters.”


On a cloudy day in Shiprock at Nizhoni Park, the sound of skateboards and announcers could be heard in the skate park.

Kids, teenagers and adults were warming up for the 1st Annual Skate Jam hosted by the Office of Diné Youth. The skateboard competition had four age group categories: 10 and under, 14 and under, 17 and under and 18 and over.

Brooke Charley, Office of Diné Youth recreation specialist, watched the 2020 Olympic skating competition and was inspired to host a skating event on the Navajo Nation.

Charley approached her supervisor, Sharon Yazzie, with the idea of putting on a skating competition in a style similar to the Olympic games.

Yazzie, program supervisor for the Shiprock Agency of the Office of the Diné Youth, said, “I seen a lot of youth in the evening, skateboarding and utilizing this area. We decided as a youth service here at Shiprock Office of Diné Youth, that it would inspire a lot of youth to do a competition.”

Yazzie collaborated with Shiprock Chapter to get the Skate Jam competition in the works and also worked with Di’orr Greenwood Skateboards, Enchantment Skateboards and others.

Yazzie said, “We are out there as the Office of Diné Youth to support our youth, to support the efforts in creating a positive atmosphere for them, to create a positive event that they will enjoy. That is our goal.”

Jaylene Mose, first-place winner in the female 17-and-under age group, said, “I was scared, lots of anxiety. I just skated and went for it.”

Mose plans to continue to pursue her education goals and to get sponsored by a skating company in the future.

Akeem Smith, first-place winner of the 17-and-under age group, said, “It’s a pretty good competition. Last year there was a skate competition but it didn’t feel like one.”

Smith would like to see more skating competitions for more skateboarders on the Navajo Nation.

Jamaal-Issac Jones, first-place winner of the 18-and-over male group, said, “I’m trying to promote positivity and a positive message. Since I moved back to the rez, I have been trying to get kids away from gang violence and skateboarding really helps. Skateboarding can save lives.”

Jones aspires to become a professional skateboarder and to show kids that the sport can provide discipline to one’s life and a positive mindset.

“I don’t really skate to win,” he said, “it’s a blessing when you do win. But it’s mainly about getting kids out here, exercising and getting them away from what is happening in their neighborhoods. It’s a positive movement.”

Yazzie, is looking forward to continuing to host the Skate Jam in upcoming years.

“A lot of these youth come from different backgrounds and enjoy the discipline of skateboarding,” she said. “We encourage them to keep going and provide them opportunities. One day, one of these youth could become a professional skateboarder.”


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