My name is Kevin Garcia Rios and I am 14 years old. I have two fantastic siblings and two amazing parents. I live in Eagle, and I love being outside and in nature. This upcoming school year, I will be a sophomore at Vail Mountain School and in my eighth year of the SOS Outreach curriculum. I love SOS because it teaches youth core values. Kids are taught how to incorporate the core values in their lives, then the teens work on service learning, peer-mentoring and social justice. My favorite thing about SOS is how it allows students to be peer-mentors, and helps people make a difference in the community. I ultimately love how SOS makes leaders and helps inspire them.
Leadership is very important to me because without leadership, many things will be left unchanged. As a Hispanic youth, I have received many racial and ignorant comments from my peers and others. People have asked me, “Why don’t you go back to your county?” even though I was born in the United States. The racism that I have faced has made me stronger and has showed me why I should strive for success. It has inspired me to become a leader so that I can change these patterns of racism and ignorance — everyone deserves an equal chance; it doesn’t matter where they are from. Leaders can direct and advocate for others, while acknowledging the thoughts of others. Leaders are people who speak up. Leadership shapes history, and therefore brings change. SOS has been so influential in my life because it helps create qualities of a leader in me and in every individual. Being in SOS is a precursor to change and social justice.
I recently received the Taft Conlin Scholarship to attend Vail Mountain School for the rest of my high school years. SOS was very helpful when I was applying for the scholarship. Through the SOS curriculum, I have developed a lot of beneficial skills. I have learned to be punctual, use higher diction and follow my values. These skills came in handy throughout the application process. I feel very honored to be the first person to get the Taft Conlin Scholarship and I am excited about being a part of the VMS community and culture. VMS will prepare me for the transition into college and it is a stepping stone for college.
I also recently had the opportunity to go to Boston with Arn Menconi, the executive director of SOS Outreach. We went to attend a lecture with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Thomas Piketty, see the Freedom Trail and visit distinguished colleges. I saw a lot of magnificent things in Boston, and I met lot of superb people. I met Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is also a writer, Thomas Piketty, an economist and writer, Bryan Van Dorpe, the Executive Director of YES Kids), Dirk A. Kummerle, the founder and managing director at Veterans Support Network, and Maria Van Wagenburg, a Harvard Law School graduate. My favorite thing about Boston was going to Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, seeing all the historic sites and meeting Sen. Warren. These activities were very informing, and it was fun to explore and experience the culture of Boston. I loved seeing how Boston started to form, seeing prestigious colleges, and meeting other great leaders. The most impactful thing that I experienced was going to Harvard — I took a lot in from the campus and the surrounding area. I have drawn a lot of inspiration to work hard and reach as far as I can. Seeing Harvard was great, and the campus was definitely captivating. I have been inspired to make discoveries, make a difference and inspire others.
My experience in Boston reaffirmed my plans for the future: I would like to go to a marvelous college, and I want to be a leader for change. Advocating for others will be one of my main priorities. In my future, I would like to be a positive impact on the world, and I want to be an excellent leader, able to inspire others in any situation. SOS, VMS and Boston have and will help me achieve these goals. Throughout these experiences, I have noticed a lot of common characteristics in successful people which I can emulate. In SOS, I have been polishing my leadership qualities and practicing peer mentoring. With VMS, I will have to push myself intellectually and emotionally to live up to my scholarship. SOS and VMS will both help me become a competitive college applicant. Going to Boston was an amazing opportunity that opened my eyes to more of the world. I saw a lot more historical sites, and I saw what it took to be successful. Ultimately, I want to use grit to persevere and never give up. I want to be a global citizen. I want to participate in influential decisions. Through SOS, Vail Mountain School and my trip to Boston, I am in contact with so many amazing leaders. I look forward to joining them to change the world.
Kevin Garcia Rios lives in Eagle and is an incoming sophomore at Vail Mountain School.