Skating Toward a Scholarship

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.

0715_davisby Tyler Davis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kids and teens of all shapes, sizes and colors come to the Sixth Avenue Skatepark to become good skaters and even better people.

The indoor skate park, located at 601 4th Ave. S., provides kids from all over the state with a place to skate and the chance to gain scholarships, internships and mentorship. With housing projects just a mile down the road, many young skaters need these resources, said skate park manager Nathaniel Covington.

“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,” an apparel store and sponsor of Rocketown, a nonprofit youth organization that shares the skate park complex.

The scholarships, which vary in amounts, have given adolescents from Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville and other areas free skating gear and skating time, positive role models and an alternative to troublemaking.

Seventeen-year-old Darius Kennebrew, a former scholarship recipient and an intern at the skate park, said Covington helped steer him away from the trouble that plagues many students at the academy he attends, Big Picture High School.

“[Covington] wants you to participate,” Kennebrew said. “They want you to stay out of trouble, do community service here,… keep your grades good.”

Kennebrew, who has skated since he was 4 years old, said getting a scholarship was as easy as becoming a regular at the skate park.

Covington, who Kennebrew refers to as his mentor, said the business charges $15 to skate all day, but those who cannot afford it are given maintenance jobs, such as cleaning or sweeping, to gain entrance to the ramps, rails and half-pipes.

The positive treatment of Nashville’s youth is one of the reasons Covington leads the skate park.

“If you ask anybody that works at Rocketown and Sixth Avenue, just being able to make a difference in kids’ lives and be a good role model [is the best part of the job],” he said.

0715_davis

A mural painted in spring near the half-pipe at Sixth Avenue Skatepark in Nashville, Tenn., depicts the logos of Spitfire skateboard trucks and Crooked skateboards. The two brands provide much of the merchandise the skate park sells, according to skate park manager Nathaniel Covington. (Photo: Tyler Davis/Summer 2015)

He said his love for working with children comes from his mother, who was a teacher. However, Covington’s lessons transcend the classroom and blend with a passion of his.

“I’ve always wanted to work with kids,” he said. “But being able to take skateboarding — which I’ve loved since about 16 — then being able to work with kids and combine it into one, that’s probably my favorite.”

Some students, including 16-year-old Spencer Taylor, said they like the skate park because of the employment opportunities and because it’s a venue to pursue their interests.

Taylor, who has skated at the Sixth Avenue for nearly 12 years, now works at the park. He said soon after he received his first skateboard, he often found himself in the east Nashville building.

“[Skating] gives me freedom; I get to do what I want,” said Taylor, a former baseball player. “I don’t have to go to practice; I don’t have to deal with a coach. I can just be with friends.”

Without the whistle or stereotypical screaming, Covington appears to be a life coach to many of the skaters at Sixth Avenue. Although the people may not look alike or come from the same part of town, the skaters are a family, he said.

“Skateboarding is the thing that connects you with all the kids here,” Covington said. “You become like their older brothers, like their family and everything, so it goes way beyond skateboarding.”

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