How one man is helping at-risk youth by providing a place to do what they love.

How one man is helping at-risk youth by providing a place to do what they love.
Nowadays, it feels like skate culture has become synonymous with Long Beach. But it wasn't always that way.In fact, before the year 2000, Long Beach, California, didn't have a single skate park to its name. But Mike Donelon, a former city councilman, helped change that.In 1996, Donelon noticed more and more kids around the neighborhood picking up skateboards. But they didn't have a safe — or even legal — place to skate. Kids ended up skating on private property or the streets most of the time, which led to them being ticketed by police or getting into serious accidents.Donelon knew that if he could provide a proper venue for the kids to skate, they'd take full advantage of it. All images via ASK, used with permission. But many members of the community were against the idea. They latched on to negative stereotypes such as kids destroying property and thought more skating would lead to more crime."Most of the opposition was the unfounded negative impression of skateboarders," Donelon writes in an email. But Donelon, who calls himself a "a rebel with a positive mission," had a plan to enlighten the naysayers: have the kids talk to the community themselves to highlight just how important this was to them. The plan was a success. Says Donelon: "I was blown away by the kids' involvement. We would invite 25 kids to a meeting and 50 would show up."The city listened. In time, the kids had a skate park they could call their own.In 2000, Donelon helped open the El Dorado Skate Park to finally give kids a safe and legal place to do their thing. But soon after, Donelon saw that skate parks could have an even bigger effect in the community.When he noticed kids from all over Long Beach traveling long distances to enjoy El Dorado Skate Park, Donelon realized that expanding the program and building more skate parks across the city — including in under-resourced areas — would engage at-risk youth unlike ever before.In 2003, the Michael K. Green Skate Park was established.The best pa