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Hawk chases dreams into the skateparks

Speaks at Stambaugh on life, philanthropy

YOUNGSTOWN — Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk was making six figures in high school and had an amazing career ahead of him, but pushed through to earn his diploma.

He admits it was challenging to stay focused in careers class “when I was making more (money) than my teacher.”

Hawk, 54, recounted the story during a free lecture Wednesday at Stambaugh Auditorium as part of the Youngstown State University Thomas Colloquium Lecture Series.

Hawk was born in San Diego to parents who had three older children. He was 9 when his brother gave him a fiberglass Bahne skateboard.

Despite being scrawny, Hawk said he was determined to succeed. He turned pro at 14 and, by 16, was regarded as one of the world’s best skaters.

Hawk told the crowd he was 17 when he bought his first house. He said he knew his path would be skateboarding, not college.

“I was going to chase (skateboarding) till the end,” he said. “I’m still chasing it.”

He was a world champion for 12 consecutive years and a 16-time X Games medalist.

In 1999, he became the first skater to land successfully a “900,” an aerial spin with 2 1/2 revolutions, performed on a skateboard ramp.

Hawk, who retired from professional skateboarding in 2003, has appeared in movies, has a billion-dollar video game franchise and his own line of skateboards, clothing, sporting goods and toys.

He authored a New York Times bestseller and operates a film, television and commercial production company. This year, HBO debuted the documentary, “Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off.”

Also a philanthropist, he founded The Skatepark Project, which has given more than $10 million to over 800 skatepark projects throughout the U.S.

The audience was made up of students from YSU and Youngstown City Schools, members of the Boys & Girls Club and the public.

An audience member asked Hawk what the community could do to land a skatepark here.

Hawk told him to contact his foundation to see if a local park would meet a set of criteria and, if so, “maybe we could help.”

Chris Williams, 43, of Youngstown, was able to score the last ticket to see Hawk’s sold-out show. He skateboarded a bit when he was young and said he grew up following Hawk.

“I idolized him as a kid,” Williams said. “Tonight was an awesome night, and I’m glad I was able to experience it in person.”

Hawk, who broke his femur in March while skateboarding, said he had his teeth knocked out when he was just starting out and had numerous injuries over the years.

“I wanted to do this, even at the cost of bodily harm,” he said. “Luckily, my parents were supportive of that.”

When asked by an audience member what advice he had for the crowd, Hawk said it would be to challenge yourself continually.

“Chase your passion and learn everything about it,” he said. “Don’t just chase the dollars.”

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