Sports Envoy
Sports Envoy Program

Neftalie Williams


Served as envoy

  • 2016  –  Netherlands
  • 2017  –  Cambodia
  • 2021  –  Virtual
  • 2023  –  Barbados
  • 2023  –  Grenada
  • 2024  –  France

Dr. Neftalie Williams is the Director of San Diego State University’s Center for Skateboarding, Action Sports, and Social Change. His work delves into global issues surrounding race, gender, diversity, and youth empowerment, using critical theory to examine power dynamics, identity politics, and social transformation through the lens of action sports. Dr. Williams focuses on the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as their non-BIPOC counterparts, to provide historical examples of challenges and solidarity that can guide us toward a more inclusive future.

With a background in both academia and a deep personal connection to skateboarding, writing, and photography, Dr. Williams has made significant contributions to the study of skateboarding culture. He has published scholarly works, written op-eds for mainstream publications, and provided commentary for various traditional news outlets and documentaries, including The New York Times, CNN, ABC, Forbes, and the documentary ‘Reaching the Sky’ featuring Olympian Sky Brown. His research on race and skateboarding, conducted as part of the 2019-2020 USC x Tony Hawk Foundation project, was prominently featured in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

Dr. Williams’ extensive experience also includes positions at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, as well as serving as a Yale Schwarzman Center Visiting Fellow in Race, Culture & Community. His scholarly expertise is complemented by his personal history as a skateboarder, writer, and photographer, which has led to features in publications like Transworld Skateboarding Magazine and Thrasher Magazine.

One of Dr. Williams’ pioneering concepts is using skateboarding as a tool for cultural diplomacy, both in theory and practice. He has spearheaded skate diplomacy initiatives for the U.S. Department of State’s embassies, engaging with youth globally and connecting them with their host country’s academic, sports, and cultural institutions. His work has taken him to countries such as Cambodia, The Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Barbados, and Grenada, aligning with his scholarly research in Brazil, The Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, and Cuba.

In an effort to expand public discourse on skateboarding culture, Dr. Williams founded “The Nation Skate,” a series of public panels, lectures, skateboarding demonstrations, and photography and skateboarding media. This initiative explores the intersection of race, gender, diversity, and diplomacy through the mediums of skateboarding, academia, and popular culture. His photography and scholarly endeavors have been showcased at prominent institutions like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Ford Theater in Los Angeles.

Currently, Dr. Williams provides consultation on skateboarding and action sports for Disney Studios and Burton Snowboards. He is also a co-founder of the College Skateboarding Educational Foundation (CSEF), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing scholarships for young skateboarders pursuing higher education. Furthermore, he serves on the boards of the Tony Hawk Foundation/The Skatepark Project, Skateistan, McKinnon Center for Global Affairs, and chairs the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for USA Skateboarding.

Zola Solamente


Served as envoy

  • 2014  –  Bolivia
  • 2016  –  Jordan
  • 2016  –  Netherlands
  • 2016  –  Senegal
  • 2017  –  Belarus
  • 2017  –  Albania
  • 2018  –  Tajikistan
  • 2019  –  Bahrain
  • 2023  –  Eswatini

Zola Solamente began playing soccer at the age of 5, with her older brother and his friends. She continued to play with boys until middle school, when she switched to a female club/travel team. From ages 12 – 17, Zola was a captain of her club team, as well as with the Olympic Development Program, and was a member of the East Regional team, which competed internationally.

Zola played at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 1990-1993. She was a starter at UNC for all four years of her career. She won 4 National Championships, 4 ACC Championships, and was named All-American her senior year. She was invited to play on the US Women’s National team in 1993. She traveled with the team for 2.5 years participating in international tournaments.

In 1995 Zola retired from international soccer to become a mother and pursue a career in fine arts. She now owns Arden Gallery Ltd. in Boston, MA, which she has been directing for 23 years. She continues to share her passion for soccer by providing individual and small-group soccer clinics to female players ages 12 – 18 in the greater Boston area. The focus of these training sessions is to improve technical skills, increase tactical awareness, and deepen strength/fitness levels. She also is a member of a USTA tennis league and rows competitively as single sculler. Since the fall of 2014 she has been traveling with the US State Department as a Sports Envoy coaching and mentoring children in under-served and at-risk environments in the Middle East, Africa, and South America. Zola is passionate about empowering girls and women through sports, especially the beautiful game of soccer.