Lakeland Skating is a free skating program that my high school class created for underprivileged youth in Los Angeles. We provide after-school and summer activity for kids age 6-15, and support talented younger players who cannot afford skating lessons. I was one of the five founding members of the program, inspired by a similar program in my native Chicago. To raise awareness and money for the program, my high school class solicited donations from businesses throughout Los Angeles. We overcame several obstacles to bring Lakeland Skating to fruition.
Volunteers and benefactors resisted committing to a program that did not exist, and questioned our ability (as teenagers) to manage such an ambitious venture. I ultimately used my youth to my advantage. I gained their interest by demonstrating an organized and structured plan as well as an infectious enthusiasm for the project. To finance my first set of classes, I used creative ways to raise money.
I organized a charity skating tournament at Lakeland School, charging entrance fees and awarding cash prizes. I also convinced Lakeland-area businesses to pay for sponsorships. As awareness grew, donors contributed money, community centers and schools sent their children, and volunteers taught classes and coordinated the program. We continually motivated different groups of supporters behind different aspects of the program and retained them from year-to-year to facilitate long-term relationships with the kids. Within two years, the program expanded from a 5-member team to a 25-employee enterprise, operating across 5 Los Angeles sites, and touching the lives of over 150 children.
This experience was personally rewarding, as I enjoyed the benefits of giving back to the community. Many of the children had limited opportunities to create success in their lives. My program provides a positive outlet for them to learn valuable lessons in teamwork, compromise and hard work. I am convinced that the benefits of community work is self-perpetuating: the more we help underprivileged kids, the greater the chance they can succeed and subsequently use the tools we provide them to improve their own lives and their communities. I am honored to use my talents as a skating instructor to make a positive contribution to society.