At Mekos Skateboard Park, there is more going on than just performing backsides and kickflips, there is connecting with youth.
Founded by Pastor Rita Staul and her son, Brent, also a pastor, the Hampton indoor park is a non-profit organization with youth development programs.
Executive Director Melissa See said a major program is Skate Talk, which aims to prevent youth violence.
“I love this program. The goal is to get kids talking. They are on their phones so much, but many times those relationships are superficial,” she said.
Understanding she was not the right person to conduct the program, See tapped the talents of Courtland Stocker.
“I am an older white lady, so those kids were not going to listen to me. Courtland is a 32-year-old black man who turned his life around,” she said.
They meet every Wednesday evening to talk, eat and skate. The first evening they met for 15 minutes. Since then, the talks have extended to 45 minutes. Participants have become confidants. Currently there are 52 participants and about 70 to 80 percent come regularly.
Every Sunday evening is devotions prior to skating.
When skating does happen, See said there is camaraderie amongst skaters of all ages.
“You’ll see a skater who is five or six years old try to do something and a 19-year-old skater will walk over to him and say ‘dude let me show you how to do that’,” she said.
“And they are always encouraging each other, it is amazing,” See added.
See came to the park via her son who took an interest in skateboarding.
“My son watched a skateboard video one day and decided he wanted to learn. We found Mekos and I am so grateful that we did. Walking into the park was a bit overwhelming for someone who has never skateboarded before, but we were greeted with open arms. After visiting the park my son was completely hooked,” she wrote in an email.
The park also has its share of volunteers. Brandon Eastep took it upon himself to rebuild a ramp that was overdue for repairs when the pandemic closed the park’s doors for a few months.
During summer camp, Aaron Rubin brought in his reptile collection and taught campers about respecting nature. See said there are a lot of young teenagers that look up to him and come to him for advice.
During the camp, skaters ages 15 to 17 served as instructors to younger kids.
“That worked out well because kids listen to kids. And it gave the older kids a sense of responsibility. That is a life lesson,” See said.
In addition to the programs, the park has skate and learn programs Monday – Friday. The park is also available for private use on Sundays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. for up to 10 people for $199. For more information visit www.mekosskate.com or call (757) 896-1281.