What did you do Thursday afternoon? If you were a lucky Long Beach high school student, you got to kick off your summer at the Dew Tour, watching the skating, meeting the pros—and believe it or not, learning about STEM.
Photos by Brady Ferdig

While the Amateur contest raged on across the course, the selected students had the opportunity to meet with professional skater Greg Lutzka, catch a demonstration from Professor Paul Schmitt and Createaskate.org, and try their hands at the Army's Strategy Tower.

Staff Sergeant Blakney was on site, as a spokesman for the Army. He helped introduce the students to the strategy tower, and offered pieces of advice along the way. "I think it went very well," he says. "They communicated very well together. I was a bit worried at first, they seemed a bit standoffish with each other, but when given a task they were able to overcome it. They spoke very clear to each other.

Teens will be teens, so there was a little bit of hesitation at first. "When they were presented with the idea," says Blakney, "they all were off to the side. But it only took mere seconds for someone to emerge and take charge. It was very good to see the other students get involved—once they were presented with it, they agreed, and started to interject more. ”

The Army has been a huge supporter of Dew Tour, for so many reasons, but one is that it gets kids interested in broadening their horizons, and the action and fun really makes them open to new ideas. That's really what this Community Day celebration was about.

One important by-product of the strategy tower, especially in a group setting, is that it requires someone to step up and be a leader. "There was one person that kind of took a leadership role," explains Blakney, "and he was able to lay out his idea." Often times, that person may not even know they possess that characteristic. "Not only that," says Staff Sergeant Blakley, "but teamwork. They all started working together very well."

Createaskate.org is a non-profit that teaches kids all about—you guessed it, how skateboards are made. Paul Schmitt donned his famous lab coat, and managed to put a science lesson, history lesson, and skate demo—all in the span of thirty minutes. Schmitt's been making boards for literally decades, so he knows a think or two or three about the process. He also knows that action and demonstration is the way to get kids excited about learning.

Darkstar's Greg Lutzka volunteered to demonstrate Schmitt's teachings, so the kids could watch science come to life. "I think it's just cool to give back, and talk to these kids," he says. "Hopefully I can inspire them. I mean, skateboarding changed my life. That's what I was passionate about."

The kids also managed to have time to skate the course, and check out the Dew Tour Experience, before the Community Day event concluded with a panel discussion. Moderator Chris Cote posed questions for Schmitt, Lutzka, and Staff Sergeant Blakney. The three may seem an unlikely trio at first, but as the panel went on, it became apparent that they had a lot more in common than they thought: All three careers, rewarding in their own ways, required vast amounts of hard work, dedication, and tenacity.

"It's not even about skateboarding," says Lutzka. "It's about following your dreams. And figuring out what you love to do, and how to make it a career."