How skateboards are keeping kids engaged at one TDSB school

The Oasis Skateboard Factory (OSF) is not your typical classroom.   Here, students are creating designs, podcasts, sanding down skateboards or coming up with business plans.

At OSF students design, build and market skateboards.   Students say they used to skip their traditional classes or simply dropped out of school but have renewed interest in learning thanks to OSF where they say they receive “real world” experience.  They have to collaborate with clients on designs and fill orders for the hand crafted skateboards.  There are also various community connections.

“Every student is paired up with an employee here.  We do lunch and learns here and bring them in once a month,” Franke Rodriguez, the president of Anomaly – which has a partnership with the school – said.  “Sometimes it’s a strategist who’s talking to them about brand strategy.  Sometimes we have a designer come in and share with them the principles of great design.  So it’s a bit less academic, learning about stuff they care about from people in the industry.”

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The program has grown over the past five years from 15 students and one teacher to 25 students and two teachers with a few graduates each semester.

“It’s cool having a real client instead of reading about it and work sheet pretending you’re working with that person,” 19-year-old Julieta Arias said.

This year, there are a record 13 OSF graduates and students say they feel positive and hopeful about their future possibilities – from attending college to the possibility of one day owning their own businesses.

“I used to go one class a day or twice a week now i go every single day only days i miss is when i’m super sick i’m so motivated to go to this school because I love it so much,” Arias said.

Mike Gontmakher is graduating and will be going to college next year.  How is he feeling about the future?

“Very optimistic and excited.  Ever since joining Oasis a lot of good things have been happening.  It’s very encouraging,” he said.

OSF is one of the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) 22 alternative secondary schools.

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