SOS Outreach kicks off the season by helping at-risk youth through snowboarding
Starting this week, ski resorts across Colorado will be hosting 2,675 youth participating in SOS Outreach this year. With the support of resort communities, SOS is transforming the lives of at-risk youth, giving them something positive to look forward to this season.
SOS Outreach is a youth nonprofit based in Avon that works with underserved youth who face a variety of risk factors. Students might speak English as a second language, or have been previously involved with the court system. They might be from low-income backgrounds or be struggling in school.
SOS provides students the opportunity to experience mountain sports. As they learn the basics of boarding, they are mentored by positive adult volunteers. Mentors pair each day of snowboarding instruction with an in-depth discussion of one of SOS’s core values (courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility). Starting with courage as students overcome their fears of heights and new, unknown activities, these discussions help students build connections between the sports, the core values and their daily lives. As long-term participant David Garcia said, “SOS has made me a better person. I’m more rooted to their values which are now mine.”
The season kicked off December 4th with a SnowCore day at Breckenridge Ski Resort. A group of students from STEM Launch K-8 school came up from Denver to learn to ski or snowboard for the first time. This weekend will see SOS days at Breckenridge, Vail, Keystone, Beaver Creek, Loveland, and Arapahoe Basin. Denver youth will experience snowsports for the first time with three different SnowCore days, and Eagle County, Summit County and Denver participants will start the five-day Learn to Ride program. Denver participants will also start the long-term University program. Finally, a number of Eagle County mentors will complete an on-hill training to prepare them for the upcoming season.
In all, 335 Colorado youth will hit the slopes with SOS this weekend at six different resorts.
This winter, 2,300 of SOS’s winter participants will be riding at Vail Resorts’ Colorado mountains. The organization is proud of its longstanding partnership with Vail that allows so many youth access to snowsports. For Vail, serving local kids is part of their EpicPromise vision to ignite passion for the outdoors and support local communities for a bright, sustainable future. “Our resort communities are better places because youth have access to SOS’s programs” says Nicky DeFord, senior manager of community giving and engagement. “It is exciting to see kids’ lives transformed through snowsports and positive relationships with mentors.”
SOS is under new leadership this year, and interim Executive Director Seth Ehrlich is committed to continuing to build on the organization’s previous successes. Ehrlich explained the impact he sees through his work, saying “As youth build passion for outdoor activities we consistently see them developing deeper community connections. By becoming a part of something bigger than themselves, youth are more likely to stay in school and become successful long term.”
SOS’s positive influences don’t end on the hill. Mentors and students attend leadership and life skills workshops together, as well as participating in community service projects. Starting with the introductory five-day Academy program, the organization builds long-term relationships between youth and mentors. After finishing Academy, students are invited back to complete the year-round University program which combines summer and winter sports with service projects and goal-setting workshops which help students become leaders of change in our community. After completing University, students who have shown extraordinary commitment to SOS’s values are invited to participate in the new Masters curriculum, which provides intensive social justice advocacy training. After up to nine years in SOS, students graduate not only as expert snowboarders, but also as community leaders committed to making a difference in the world.
The organization serves nearly 5,000 underserved youth annually, engaging them in a sports based youth development curriculum. By combining snowsports, positive adult mentorship, core value training, and leadership development, SOS provides positives influences that not only brighten dark winter days, but also their futures.
Visit www.sosoutreach.org to find more information on SOS Outreach.