Editor's note: This column, submitted by Vail Resorts, showcases the nonprofits that the company supports through its Vail Resorts Echo program.
EAGLE COUNTY - More than 2,700 kids across the country will hit the slopes this season through SOS Outreach, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth excel in the classroom and learn critical life skills on the mountain. SOS participants face a variety of challenges, including trouble in school, living in low-income households and speaking English as a second language. Through a variety of curriculum stressing responsibility, self-confidence and service, SOS youth learn five core values: Courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion. While former SOS participant Francisco "Paco" Holguin left the mountains last fall for the East Coast, he found himself drawing upon his SOS values during his first semester at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.
The oldest of three and the first generation of his family to be born in the U.S., Holguin enrolled with SOS Outreach as a way to get involved in his community. After eight years with the program, Holguin graduated from Vail Mountain School last year and received a full ride scholarship to MIT. Holguin says he relies upon SOS's five core values frequently, and emphasizes integrity as being particularly important with schoolwork.
"There is a sense of integrity in terms of doing your own work," Holguin said. "Homework is done collaboratively with other people, but come test time, you're on your own and you have to know your material."
Holguin also reflects on the courage he's also found recently, especially when searching for a summer research internship to augment his selected major of physics.
"Both professors and older students say that in order to get a research position, you have to have the courage to ask for and seek out what you want," he said. "If know that if I don't take the chance, I won't receive the position.
Vail Resorts values the importance of integrity, courage and wisdom, and recognizes the impact SOS Outreach and these lessons make on youth like Holguin.
"By supporting SOS Outreach with both cash and in-kind contributions, Vail Resorts provides that once in a lifetime experience to kids who might otherwise miss out on the iconic mountains of their own backyard," said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Vail Mountain. "In addition to teaching youth to ski or snowboard, we appreciate that SOS Outreach also stresses leadership, the importance of community service and other key life lessons."
Arn Menconi is executive director of SOS Outreach. Through Vail Resorts Echo, Vail Resorts hopes to connect its communities to its efforts - from on the ground conservation programs to grants for local schools. Aimed at both protecting the natural resources that surround the resorts and helping build stronger communities where its employees live and work, Vail Resorts Echo encompasses three core efforts: environmental stewardship, charitable giving and community engagement. Learn more at www.vailresortsecho.com.