Jim McMahon

Learning to skateboard can be pivotal for many teens—but for Alfonso Mendoza, it was truly life changing. Mendoza was born without legs and was often ridiculed by other kids while he was growing up in Venezuela. By the time he was 13, he was struggling with depression. But then a friend suggested that Mendoza replace his wheelchair with a skateboard. That swap ultimately saved him, Mendoza says. He quickly learned to maneuver and perform tricks, enabling him to move more swiftly than most able-bodied people. The skateboard also helped Mendoza, now 26, when he left his home country—which is dealing with a food crisis and mass unemployment—last year and migrated to Barranquilla, Colombia. Though he’s faced plenty of hardship, Mendoza is now optimistic about his life, and he channels those thoughts while teaching motivational classes. “You have to have a positive attitude,” he recently told private school students, according to the news agency AFP. “God didn’t give me legs, but he replaced them with talents.”