AURORA | Students at East Middle School got to build their own skateboards Thursday as part of a partnership between the APS Foundation, Amazon and other local organizations.
About 75 sixth and seventh grade students in the school’s woodworking class took part in the project. After building the skateboards, students were each given a helmet and went down to the gym for a skateboarding demo.
This is the second year of the partnership between Amazon and the district, which last year held a similar event for students at Murphy Creek K-8. Brittany Morris Saunders, head of community affairs for Amazon in Colorado, said that the program is part of the company’s future engineer program to increase STEM opportunities for K-12 students.
As well as being a fun way to get involved in STEM, the event also provided students with a practical way to get to and from school, she said.
Amazon provided the funding for the skateboards and helmets, and the nonprofits Can’d Aid and Square State Skate, which holds skateboarding programs for kids across Colorado, helped students to assemble the boards.
Brian Ball with Square State Skate said that he grew up in a military family that moved frequently, and that skateboarding was a way for him to make connections.
“Skateboarding was the first real community that I had,” he said.
Jill Ruiter, executive director of the APS Foundation, said that the foundation worked with Amazon to find a Title I school in the district that had a curriculum that would fit in well with the event. East Middle’s woodworking program was the perfect fit.
“They get to take their own curriculum and make it hands-on,” she said.
The Foundation has invested over $8 million in the district in the last five years, and has a significant focus on expanding career and technical education opportunities for students. It recently held its annual fundraising gala where it brought in over $470,000, its highest-grossing event to date, Ruiter said.
Students had a mix of previous experiences skateboarding but were eager to put their technical skills to use.
Sixth grader Crystal Hernandez said she loved skateboarding but didn’t currently have a board at home, so it was a great opportunity for her.
Itzayanu Casiano said she planned to ride her new board around the neighborhood. She said she enjoyed the woodworking class, and liked the hands-on opportunities that came with it.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said.