Meet the skateboarding diplomat inspiring kids to get educated

Neftalie Williams is a university professor, a diplomat and a skateboarder - an impressive feat.

But more impressive than that, he is renowned for combining each vocation to inspire kids to think bigger than themselves and their local communities.

He gets involved in skating communities to start a conversation, and encourage the youth who call it home to pursue academic goals, as well as skating.

Mr Williams works with youth in areas with high poverty and crime rates, in a bid to get them to understand that they're part of a global community and can make something worthwhile out of their life.

He's worked in the likes of Cuba, Cambodia, South Africa and Brazil, and is currently studying a PhD at the University of Waikato, with his thesis centred on - you guessed it - skateboarding.

He says the children he spends time with are "so excited" by his chosen educational path, and feel empowered that a tertiary institution is letting him study something they love.

"So many kids say, 'I want to go to college now' - and that's really all I wanted," he told The AM Show on Wednesday morning.

"There's no reason to just work to become a professional skateboarder, you also have so many other things you can add to different avenues - and all those other avenues are in school."

He says the reception to his work from youth has been "fantastic".

"In Cambodia, I actually worked with the Minister of Youth, Sport & Education - they were really, really excited when they saw there was a natural way to not just get their kids excited about sports, but excited about academia and what they could study," he said.

He says skateboarding is a great way for youth to connect with one another, and doesn't necessarily have to follow the rebellious label it often gets handed.

"It really became something that I loved because it didn't matter what your background was, how much money you had - you had a friend as soon as you started skateboarding," he said.

"For me, that's something we need more of in the world."

Mr Williams says his mission doesn't have to be realised through skateboarding, as long as the activity is "a way to bond our kids, and help them see that there's a community that's bigger than their local scene."

But he says with the rise of skateboarding as a global sport - and its inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - it's a great medium through which to teach kids some valuable lessons.