The Skate Park Lady

By Maureen Hannan | Posted on February 25, 2011

"I get to meet the most interesting people at my job." My friends have gotten used to hearing this statement from me regularly by now. And sure, phone interviews may not quite count as "meeting people"--but there is something wonderful and inspiring about having a conversation with someone whose passion and energy practically leap out of the phone receiver.

This was certainly the case with Stephanie Murdock, whose efforts to build a skate park in the city of Baltimore reflect both her love of her sport and her commitment to the city's teens. The 28-year-old boarder with a master's degree in Political Management exudes confidence and conviction--and she has so much to say about her skate park plans that she barely stops for breath once she gets going.

As I listened to Stephanie talk about Skatepark of Baltimore, I admired her fundraising smarts and dedication. Hard not to. This woman just managed to win a $50,000 fellowship grant, which she is using to apply herself full-time to achieving her million-dollar fundraising goal. But there was something I liked even more about Murdock than her sheer competence--and that was her willingness to be a role model. Her desire to mentor teenagers in not just the ins and outs of half-pipes and concrete...but in leadership.

As a mother of four (two of whom are in college and two of whom are in their pre-adolescent years) I know how rare it is for a busy twenty-something to come alongside teenagers in a mentoring role. And even rarer to see them do it with skill and patience. And yet it is exactly that age group that most teens long to connect with.

And so, as Stephanie Murdock outlined her plans for me on the phone last January--and as she told her stories of street festival sales pitches and after-school design powwows--I realized I was talking with one of those rare people who has combined dedication to a cause with a teacher's mindset. Stephanie's going to get that skate park built, and she's going to impact a lot of kids' lives in the process.

As I said, I do get to meet the most interesting people....

Maureen Hannan is the Senior Editor for Parks & Recreation magazine.