(Oasis Skateboard Factory teachers Craig Morrison and Lauren Hortie at the end of semester pop-up shop at the Baitshop on Friday night.- Photo by Joyita Sengupta)
While high school students across the city gear up for winter exams, the students at the Oasis Skateboard Factory are getting their final marks of the semester by presenting and selling products they’ve made.
The pop-up shop had its opening night at the Baitshop on Friday and featured skateboards, T-shirts, buttons, and street art all done by Oasis Skateboard Factory students.
Oasis Skateboard Factory is a program within Oasis Alternative Secondary School that offers compulsory high school credits through a curriculum where they learn to run a skateboard business. There are currently 26 students enrolled between the ages of 16 to 20.
Lauren Hortie is currently a full-time teacher with the program along with founder, Craig Morrison. She started working with the program three years ago and explains the course work that led to this weekend’s pop-up shop.
“Each student, as part of the curriculum, develops their own brand,” says Hortie. “So, they create T-shirts, they make buttons, they write a brand purpose statement where they learn the basics of marketing.”
Julieta Arias, 18, has been a student at the at OSF for the past year and is currently in Grade 12. She explains some of the products at the pop-up shop have been commissioned by different skateboard stores.
“Throughout the semester we start to work with clients,” Arias says.
“So, we get a client from a store and they want a board and we do business with them and we learn how to work with other people in the community.”
Arias’ projects include skateboards that feature Anime-style graphic art. She hopes open her own skateboard shop one day.
Craig Morrison started Oasis Skateboard Factory five years ago after piloting a program at the Oasis Secondary. He was looking to help disengaged youth finish school by incorporating some of their interests like skateboarding and street art. He hopes the program will eventually offer all compulsory high school credits but for now he says he is bridging gaps that currently exist between students and their high school diplomas.
“We don’t offer all the high school credits you need to graduate so often we’re taking kids and reengaging them, getting them credits, and helping them move on to completing their studies,” Morrison says.
Kyle Echlin, 18, says the program made a difference for him.
“I used to go to a traditional school and I used to skip class every single day and now I go to class every single day,” says Echlin. “It’s because I love what I do.”
Echlin was chosen as a representative of the program to apply to CBC’s Future Dragon Fund. Echlin won and Dragon’s Den judge, Kevin O’Leary visited Oasis Skateboard Factory and invested $5,000 into the program. Echlin says he’s ecstatic to help the program.
“I always wanted to give back to OSF but I didn’t know how because they gave me so much,” Echlin says. “They gave me the understanding and the knowledge that I can do something more with my future.”
Echlin’s skateboards at the pop-up shop showcase his love for old school hip-hop greats like Notorious B.I.G.
Both instructors believe the program is proving to be a success. The program has steadily grown in size each year and while the program started with mostly males, half of the students right now are female. Morrison credits the success to the practicality of the course work.
“It’s based on real things that have to happen in the world. Like delivering a product to a client, or having a show where you need to have stuff done on time, or submitting something to a magazine to be published,” says Morrison.
“Because their projects are real, they feel more committed.”
Products from the Oasis Skateboard Factory will be available at the Baitshop at 358 Dufferin St. until Jan. 31.