A Skate Park With a Heart

Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., scholars are required to complete a mobile media reporting module, which includes producing videos and reporting and writing stories. Their work is displayed here.

0515_whiteby Meagan White

On Fourth Avenue South in Nashville, Tenn., sits a gray, nondescript building that may seem to tourists or casual passersby like another structure dotting the sprawling city.

But to many kids, the building is a home of sorts.

It houses Sixth Avenue Skatepark, the only indoor skate park in the city, and has become a hub for area skateboarders. According to manager Nathaniel Covington, young people from grade school through high school flock to the park throughout the week after classes.

“On a daily basis there can be anywhere from 15 kids to well over 100 if we have an event,” Covington said. “I’d say we have about 50 for weekdays.”

Covington, 29, who has managed Sixth Avenue for five years, said many kids come from housing projects located down the street or ride the buses from school. Some come from Brentwood, Franklin and other nearby communities.

The indoor skate park is “a destination for a lot of skateboarders” because it’s the only one in Nashville, Covington said.

Sixth Avenue charges a fee for skating to help pay expenses, including lighting, air conditioning and employee wages. However, an empty wallet is no reason for young people to stay away from the park.

“We would never turn anybody away if they didn’t have any money,” Covington said. “For kids in that situation that may not have the money to pay for it, we have scholarships that are offered through Journeys, the shoe manufacturer.”

One scholarship recipient, Darius Kennebrew, has frequented the skate park’s ramps since 2006 and has been an avid skateboarder since he was 4 years old. Kennebrew eventually became an intern at the shop and also applied for a scholarship.

“I got a free skateboard, and they were like, ‘All right, this is what you need to do,’” Kennebrew said, adding that skateboarding is free for people in the scholarship program.

Monetary benefits aside, Sixth Avenue offers a unique community for students, many of whom attribute their success in school to the family-like setting.

“Skateboarding is the thing that connects you with all the kids here, but you become like their older brothers, like their family, so it goes way beyond skateboarding,” said Covington, who dreamed of following in his mother’s footsteps and becoming a teacher. “Being able to take skateboarding, which I’ve loved since about 16, and then being able to work with kids and combine it into one, that’s probably my favorite (part). But overall…just being able to make a difference in kids lives and be a good role model” is the best part of the job.

For students like Kennebrew, the scholarships and chance to skate aren’t the only things that keep them coming back to Sixth Avenue.

It’s “an opportunity to stay out of trouble,” Kennebrew said. “You come here a lot, and they want you to participate…They keep you out of trouble, keep your grades good, stuff like that.” The skate park has had a positive effect on his life, he said.

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