skate school rewards Nelson Mandela Elementary students with a big surprise |

OMAHA – In the hot summer sun, the sounds of laughter and the click-clack of polyurethane wheels over cracks in the concrete filled the Miller Park neighborhood.

It was the last day of skate school, a two-month, twice-a-week program for fourth and fifth graders at Nelson Mandela Elementary School. As instructors asked students to reflect on the experience, children dressed in tie-dye shirts grew impatient as they stared at a row of brand new skateboards.

From the crowd, a common refrain: “Are we going to keep the boards?”

The instructors exchanged a knowing look as they continued their questions.

This summer marks the second year that Rabble Mill, a Nebraska-based nonprofit centered in skateboarding, digital art and music, has partnered with Nelson Mandela Elementary, a private K-5 no-fee school. tuition in North Omaha.

“I think our missions align well, which is why we chose to continue working with them,” said Katie Temple, education programs manager at Rabble Mill, of the partnership.

Layla Mason practices during skate school at Nelson Mandela Elementary.

Opened in 2015 and fully funded by the Lozier Foundation, the school prioritizes high quality, tailored education for children in the Miller Park area. This includes integrating music lessons into the school curriculum, requiring parents to be actively involved in the school community, and a year-round school calendar, with a three-week summer vacation in August.

During the months of June and July, 76 students spent part of their school day on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the gently paved parking lot. Rabble Mill instructors have set up a makeshift skate park, with obstacles to maneuver around and small ramps to practice gaining speed.

Connor Johnson, 21, has skated most of his life. When his friends told him about teaching kids to skate at Rabble Mill, he jumped at the chance.


Connor Johnson adapts Ja’Slynn Davis for a new helmet on the last day of skate school at Rabble Mill, where he gave away boards and helmets to all the students.

“When I started skating back then, there was a group of kid skaters that lived in my neighborhood,” he said. “They were older, cooler guys, and I wanted to be like them. The coolest thing about working with kids is you’re now the coolest kid. They want your advice. and they admire you that way.

Many children had never set foot on a skateboard before this summer. The instructors focused on building confidence and meeting each student at their respective skill level. While some students were eager to learn new tricks, others were still comfortable balancing on the board.

Regardless of their skills, Johnson says all of the students have made great strides since their starting point. That’s why each child received a skateboard and a helmet to take home.


Reah Carter picks out her new skateboard on the last day of Rabble Mill Skate School at Nelson Mandela Elementary School in Omaha.

A few weeks before the last class, six Rabble Mill employees gathered around a box of skateboard parts. For more than three hours, they went through the same tedious process of assembling a skateboard 76 times: measuring the board, adding tape, sanding the edges, drilling the holes, inserting bearings and attaching wheels and trucks.

The hard work paid off when the instructors told the kids they could continue training on their own boards. Screams and cheers were audible throughout the neighborhood as students raced to make their selections.

“They were so excited,” Johnson said. “They all worked so hard, and they really deserve these boards. I was working with some of the kids and they were talking about how they want to skate more and practice, but they don’t have a board.

For the rest of the lesson, the students used paint pens to decorate the new equipment and sign their names on each other’s boards. Johnson and the other instructors watched with a smile as the children raced back and forth in the parking lot.

Before retreating to the school building, the students thanked their instructors – for the skateboards, of course, but also for helping many of them find a new hobby.

“Thank you,” said one student. “I didn’t know I liked skateboarding until now.”

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