Passionate about exploring her own skating talents, one 13-year-old East Palo Alto girl has channeled her interests of skateboarding into a community giveaway in hopes of helping other young people find their passion in the sport.

“Skateboards are really expensive and especially with the pandemic I wanted to help people who have lost their jobs,” Cinthya Guzman, an after-school student with the education nonprofit Thiebaut Method, said. “I felt like if people would just try it out, they might actually enjoy it.”

New to the Thiebaut Method late last year after her sister had been enrolled in the program, Guzman was tasked with thinking up a Social Good project that aims to develop philanthropic skills in youth. With a collection of interests, Guzman was unsure of what to pursue but her mother informed Paul Thiebaut III, the founder and CEO of Thiebaut Method, of Guzman’s interest in skateboarding which developed early on while watching YouTube videos of skaters performing tricks.

Having been gifted her first board during Christmas in 2018 and after rebuilding her own board with help from Thiebaut, Guzman decided she’d like to focus her Social Good project on donating 25 boards to other East Palo Alto children. Recognizing many parents were likely struggling during the pandemic she felt driven toward helping provide a fun and active outlet for other kids similar to what she experiences on her own skateboard.

Guzman’s project is one of 10 Social Good projects being developed through the Thiebaut Method. Students first began brainstorming their passion projects late last year just before the region experienced its most severe spike in COVID-19 cases, Thiebaut said.

Like many other education-based nonprofits, the organization had to adapt to working with students remotely, developing projects ranging from offering free fence painting services, hygiene kits for the homeless and reenactments of the movie “Jurassic Park” to preschoolers.

But the organization was also facing economic uncertainty, Thiebaut said. Without a $100,000 donation from a private donor and $150,000 of seed funding from Sheri Sobrato Brisson, trustee of the Sobrato Family Foundation board, the organization would have gone under, Thiebaut said.

“It’s so weird that we almost went out of business and now we’ve never had this kind of support,” Thiebaut said. “It’s pretty, pretty inspiring to see all that’s happening around not just what the students are doing but the support we’re receiving as a nonprofit.”

The assistance enabled students like Guzman to formally start their projects in February. She worked closely with the nonprofit’s executive director Mariamne Borden, program assistant Amy Arrellin-Cardenas and her mentor Sean Murphy to develop, print and hand out fliers, develop a website and plan the final giveaway event.

Guzman, Borden and Thiebaut first began distributing fliers at local skate parks and skate shops across the Peninsula asking community members to donate what they could, whether that be skateboards, parts, tool kits or funds.

Nervous at first, Guzman said her assumptions of skaters developed while watching movies and TV shows changed that day after being met by strong encouragement.

“I was nervous what the outcome [would be] because that was before what I knew skateboarders were like,” Guzman said. “Once I started talking more to the skaters I was like ‘oh this isn’t that bad.’”

Support for the project came from various local organizations including Skate Like a Girl Bay Area, a San Francisco nonprofit that donated 25 skateboards to the project and San Carlos’ Society Skate Shop with 20 complete boards. Boards for Bros, a Tampa, Florida, nonprofit, also showed support, donating 10 skateboards and an additional donation from Oregon.

In total, Guzman received more than four times her original goal, having collected more than 100 boards, 40 tool kits, $1,833 and four helmets. Financial donations were used to purchase more helmets for skateboard recipients, Thiebaut, a fellow skater who stressed the importance of skating safely, said.

About 50 children have requested a board through the events website, ranging from 5- to 16-year-olds who will each receive a helmet and tool kit. Additional boards will be available to children present at the event who have yet to sign up with Thiebaut suggesting up to 100 boards are likely to be given away.

Guzman said she has mixed feelings about the project coming to an end but looks forward to her efforts culminating in the final skateboard giveaway event 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15. The event will be held at the East Palo Alto skate park at 550 Bell St. and will feature a speech by Guzman.

If unable to finish the speech herself, Thiebaut and Borden have assured Guzman they’d step in to help. That’s the point of the program, Borden said, to help guide young people through their projects so they can eventually do the work independently.

“Just thinking about [giving the speech] makes my heart pound a little bit but this is why I’m practicing,” Guzman said who called herself nervous by nature. “I feel pretty happy that I’ll have support next to me throughout the whole thing.”

If interested in receiving a skateboard, parents and guardians may email Thiebaut Method at socialgood@thiebautmethod.org or call (650) 485-4877. Visit sites.google.com/thiebautmethod.org/cinthyas-skateboard-sgp for more information.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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