140 Vail Valley kids graduate SOS | VailDaily.com

140 Vail Valley kids graduate SOS

Vail Daily staff report
Vail, CO Colorado
Jeff Bernhard/Special to the Vail DailySherpa Mike Schranz introduces Vail Valley, Colorado graduates Kirstie Aragon, Brenda Pilas, and Sean Knuckey

VAIL, Colorado ” The auditorium rows at Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail, Colorado were filled with supporters as 140 Eagle County students graduated SOS Outreach on Sunday.

In his keynote speech, state Sen. Dan Gibbs highlighted the students’ work.

“How many of you helped with the Youth Conservation Corps building trails,” Gibbs said, encouraging respondents to keep their hands up. “Now how many helped with the Salvation Army? Who worked at Habitat for Humanity? The Eagle County Animal Shelter?”-

Facing a roomful of outstretched arms, Gibbs continued, “It’s amazing to see how many of you already understand the importance of giving back.”

Vail Valley-based SOS Outreach tries to help kids improve their grades by teaching them to ski or snowboard or do volunteer work. On Sunday, SOS students paid tribute to their peers and instructors.-

Junior Sherpa Jessa Giarratano completed her eighth season with SOS, and will attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in the Fall.

“I’ll be going to school in New York City next year, and am really sad to be leaving,” she said. “The younger girls in my group have been awesome, and I want to thank everyone for making this possible. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this, and I love everything about the program. It’s amazing.”

Salvation Army director Tsu Wolin-Brown said SOS students have helped out the organization for years.

“It’s wonderful to see people of all ages helping us out, because we really needed it this year,” she said.

Volunteers assembled close to 1,000 food baskets over Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said.

“We really appreciate the ongoing help, and think it’s wonderful that students this young learn the importance of being a part of the community,” she said.

Eagle County Commissioner Sara Fisher also paid tribute to the work of SOS students. “I wanted to thank all the junior sherpas (mentors) who gave back this year,” Fisher said. “You helped fill a hole in our community through your deeds, and make it clear that SOS is a two-way street by giving back, and taking the five core values with you into the community.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis provided a congressional certificate of recognition to each student who graduated Year Four of the multi-year SOS University program.

SOS executive director Arn Menconi thanked the volunteers, and lauded the accomplishments of sherpas and junior sherpas in the program.

“Your commitment has been outstanding all season ” you’ve attended leadership training workshops, have performed hours of community service, and have been an asset to SOS as well as the community,” he said.

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