As we all wait for the snow to fly, SOS Outreach is busy prepping another group of Summit County youth for a great year on the hill. As SOS begins its 19th season, more youth than ever will be exposed to adventure sports while at the same time learning leadership skills and core values.
SOS will serve 325 students in Summit County this year, 150 of those in the long-term programs SOS provides. Summit has also more than doubled their number of Junior Sherpas this year - kids who chose to return to SOS after completing the four years in the program and serve as peer mentors. This is part of national programs that serve more than 5,200 youth this year through five offices at 35 ski resorts.
While most skiers and snowboarders are just looking for a good time, SOS kids are learning to define and practice values such as courage, discipline and integrity. Participants come from a variety of backgrounds, including low-income households, single-parent families, or exposure to drugs and alcohol. Along with the opportunity to experience mountain sports, SOS mentors provide positive role models and encouragement these kids might not get anywhere else.
Summit participants have already started putting the core values into practice by giving back to their community. On Make a Difference Day, a nationwide service day where thousands of people across the county get out and volunteer in their community, 90 kids helped out with service projects ranging from trail work to community garden winter prep.
Through leadership workshops, community service projects, core value training, mentorship and ride days, the SOS curriculum builds self-esteem and life skills. SOS participants have already started putting the core values into practice by giving back to their community through service projects across the county. Long-term SOS mentor Molly Griffith said, "I started with SOS to give back to my kids, but watching them develop over the years, I am seeing them turn into leaders."
SOS students have noted the deep impact the program has on their life. One student explained "I now have a concrete idea of my short- and long-term goals and how I can achieve them. SOS has given me a family outside of my home and valuable support group that I can rely on. I've also learned to push myself to limits I never dared approach before. This perseverance is evident not only in my snowboarding but in my academics and personal life as well. SOS has inspired me to be a great leader in my community to seek leadership opportunities and to take ownership of my actions."
All of this positive change is made possible through the support of community members who step up to be mentors and through the generosity of mountain partnerships. Program director Rob Rumrill explains that "without the support we receive from the community and Vail Resorts this level of impact wouldn't happen." Every winter it is incredible to watch the community come together as kids meet their volunteer instructors and mentors on the slopes with passes donated by Vail Resorts and wearing gear sent in by corporations all over the country.
SOS Outreach is a national youth development non-profit which utilizes adventure sports to engage at-risk students in long-term mentorship relationships. The SOS curriculum encourages responsibility, self-confidence, service and leadership skills by instilling five core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, and compassion. Since 1993, we have inspired positive decision making for healthy and successful lives.