Teen aspires to create a community of writers, skateboarders
A writer and skateboarder, Homer youth Justice Sky spends his school year studying creative writing and his summers running his skateboard shop.
Majoring in creative writing at Southern Oregon University, he likes to write fiction and poetry.
"For me, writing is about the human experience and is the best way I've found to try to figure out how our world works on a very human level," he said.
Last November he self-published a chapbook called "Clumsy."
"The poems are about taking things that are ordinary and making them weird and distorted," he said?"I wanted to write things that were familiar and give them a new life, and cause people to think differently about the everyday."
One of his writing goals is to create a local literary magazine.
"I'd love to put together a Homer area and affiliated literary journal to help build and bring that circle of people together and create a public outlet for my own writing too," he said.
Born in Homer?Sky grew up on Diamond Ridge. An early role model was community member Nina Faust, who was his Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters youth mentoring program from the time that he was in grade four until he graduated.
"One of the biggest things she did for me was get me involved in the Alaska Youth for Environment (AYEA), a statewide nonprofit that brings teenagers together to teach them how to advocate for environmental issues in different ways," he shared.
In middle school, he trained with AYEA's Art in Action, learning how to communicate feelings about social issues through art. In seventh grade, he learned about the Legislature and bills, and then taught what he learned to other youth during the annual Civic and Conservation Summit, which is held in Juneau each year.
"That program was a pretty big stepping stone for me and happened at a time in my life when I was realizing that, through my own volition, I could go out and make things happen," he said.
In 2013, he won the Denny Wilcher Young Environmentalist of the Year Award.
Self-directed and given a lot of freedom growing up, Sky and two of his friends spent their senior year of high school living in a school bus on his parent's property.
"One friend was in a tough family situation, and the three of us decided we wanted our freedom," he said.
They bought and renovated a school bus and spent the year living without internet and water, with insufficient heating, using a propane stove, a small electric fridge, and hauling their laundry into town.
"Keeping warm and keeping up with school were the biggest challenges," he said. "Having three guys in a small space together with no internet and not a lot of organization was interesting."
In 2013, he graduated high school and set out for Southern Oregon University, which has roughly the same number of students as the population of Homer.
"One of my favorite things about Alaska is that you can be in a coffee shop and people start talking to you just because you're standing in line next to them," he said "I don't see that in the university or the community."
Every summer, Sky returns home to spend time with his family. He also returns to run his skateboard business, The Skate Shop, which he opened in 2015 in a storage unit out East End Road. He was inspired by his uncle, Jacob, who owned Homer's first skate shop, Jake's Skateboard Store, which was located in the Gold Mine Gifts building.
The following two summers, he operated his shop out of a space on Heath Street, teaching skateboarding, selling equipment and giving advice to other skaters.
In 2016, he created a "push race" on the Homer Spit, with competitors of all ages pushing their scooters and boards to the end of the bike trail in a race for speed. The top placers won gift cards to the skate shop. First place received a free skateboard?
Sky enjoys nurturing a community of local skateboarders?
"A lot of the counterculture people who don't want to be involved in mainstream sports gravitate towards skateboarding as an alternative sport, and I like to be a part of that," he said. "I love skating and I think that having something to do in a small town is really important for young people.?
After college, he hopes to follow and compete in the Gravity Sports world cup tour, a downhill, longboard racing circuit with races in different countries. Aspiring skaters follow the tour and compete in openers. If skaters place well in enough openers, they can go into the world cup finals and compete with the best in the world.
Sky's goal is to spend winters following the tour and summers at his skate shop. He is eager to make the skate shop more sustainable and to help create a local indoor skate park.
"For a lot of people, skating is one of their biggest pastimes, but right now, it's seasonal and an indoor park would be a great community space for local skaters," he said.
"For me, skating is about coming together with people and bettering yourself, putting yourself in front of challenges and growing together, keeping healthy, and continuing to be playful," he said. "There's a stigma that skaters are rebellious, but I think that the sport, as a whole, has gotten to be a lot more positive over the years."
For the past two years, Sky has spent his summers working part time at his shop and part time as a barista at Coal Town Coffee?Of Japanese descent, he is intrigued to learn more about the culture and is planning to spend six months studying in a language immersion program in Japan next year, with a goal of becoming fluent, connecting with family members he has never met, blogging about his time and returning to Homer after he graduates in 2019.
"I'm looking forward to building my roots here and doing something for my community," he said. "Then, I want to start traveling and longboarding and see what else the world has to offer."