Skating to Success
In a rough-and-tumble Newark, New Jersey, neighborhood, a new skateboard park—the city’s first and only—and a young visionary are helping local kids learn more than just ollies, grinds, and feebles.
Just 23 years old, Jon Lodge grew up in Newark. He knows how mean the streets here can be, and that it’s all too easy for kids lacking a healthy recreational outlet to be led astray. He also knows what ambition and passion can do—Lodge started skateboarding when he was 14 years old and at the age of 18 founded a successful small skateboarding business: Certified Skateboards.
When news hit that The Trust for Public Land’s renovation of Jesse Allen Park would include Newark’s first and only skateboard park, Jon saw an opportunity to make a difference.
“The kids here don’t have much,” says Lodge. “They need something to be excited about and a safe place to practice and play.”
He sees skateboarding as a way out, a way for at-risk youth to suspend their day-to-day struggles. Lodge hopes that by holding events and giveaways, and by simply having a regular presence at the park, he will inspire the kids to want to succeed and, ultimately, change lives.
“When I first came to the park, the kids didn’t know me and were just kind of hanging around,” says Lodge. “But when I started riding at the park and encouraging them, I noticed the morale begin to rise. The kids started doing better in school. They started talking about wanting to skateboard like me, about wanting to start a business like me.”
A Transforming Park
Kids from the local community and as far away as Philadelphia come to skate and attend Lodge’s events at Jesse Allen Park. Bordered by a school and a Boys & Girls Club, the park also features basketball courts, all three sizes of USTA tennis courts, and green space, with plans for a playground, water play area, adult fitness equipment, and a playing fields.
|Jon Lodge, Certified Skateboards, and Mayor Corey Booker spread some holiday cheer at Jesse Allen Park.|
“The park was originally designed and constructed in the 1970’s and had fallen into disrepair,” says Scott Dvorak, TPL New Jersey Project Manager. “The design featured a lot of concrete walls and varying levels within the park, which created hiding places conducive to shady activity. We’re changing all that and creating a safe and positive place for community recreation.”
Lodge is helping with that. Part talent, part ambition, and all heart, he’s working hard to give this neighborhood and these kids something to be proud of. He’s held events at the park with Newark Mayor, Corey Booker, and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to promote healthy activity for kids. During his annual holiday giveaway at the park, Lodge hands out Certified Skateboards and merchandise to low-income kids.
“Our events draw huge crowds to the park, so I try to bring in corporate sponsors,” he says. “I want kids to know skateboarding is real and that they can make money and support a family the right way if they work hard. They don’t have to turn to crime or drugs; there’s a better way.”
A new reality show on Fuse TV will follow Lodge from Jesse Allen Park to his office and warehouse, as he designs, manufactures, sells, and finances his skateboard business-and inspires the community around him.
“When I come to the park and see a kid riding his first skateboard—the one I gave him—really killing it and excited about it and staying out of trouble—that’s what it’s all about.”