Eagle County leaders offer advice to local youth | VailDaily.com

Eagle County leaders offer advice to local youth

The panelists sitting on the stage are (left to right):Arn Menconi, Executive Director of SOS OutreachSusie Davis, Executive Director of the Youth FoundationRick Smith, Partner of Business Advisory firm Pilot AdvisorsBill Cotton, President and Owner of Optic Nerve Sunglasses

AVON, Colorado – “What where the most difficult things you had to overcome as a leader?” asked 15-year-old Jesus Garcia.

Garcia was one of over 40 youth that had the chance to learn from local leaders as part of a panel hosted by youth nonprofit SOS Outreach on Thursday night.

The students were all participants in SOS’s University program, which aims to build leadership skills in local youth. The program takes place throughout the season and students not only learn how to ski and snowboard, but also about core values and leadership skills they can apply in their everyday lives. University students asked the panelists tough questions about their leadership styles, and what it takes to lead effectively.

Kevin Garcia, 11 years old: “What is your definition of a leader?”

Bill Cotton, president and owner of Optic Nerve Sunglasses: “Humility. Leaders need to treat others how they want to be treated. Forcing your opinion on someone doesn’t make a leader; people have to want to follow you. I think the best advice I could give is that it takes courage to ask for help and it takes courage to help others.”

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Austin Tafoya, 15 years old: “How do you track your progress as a leader?”

Rick Smith, partner of Business Advisory firm Pilot Advisors: “There is an old proverb, ‘What gets measured gets improved.’ You need to decide what success looks like for you as an individual or for your company. Where do you want to be in the next few years? Think about it in practical terms, then re-evaluate in a few years. Did I get there? Did I get there with integrity? Things are easier to measure once you define what success looks like.”

Kagan Huff, 11 years old: “What leadership roles did you have when you were young?”

Susie Davis, executive director of the Youth Foundation: “When I was younger I ran for student council. I ran my freshman year and lost, my sophomore year and lost, my junior year and lost and my senior year I was student council president. I don’t know why I kept trying, but I don’t think that I realized that what I was experiencing then was leadership.”

This is the third year SOS Outreach has hosted the forum. Cotton said that it’s an honor to be a part of a group of aspiring kids.

“One question that did surprise me and really made me evaluate myself as a leader was what’s one major change he would like to make before all is said and done?” he said. “I was glad the rest of the panel was there – those were some tough questions.”

Besides learning from the panelists, the students also helped choose the leaders and organize the event as part of their involvement in the SOS program. A few of the students really connected with the message of persistence given by Smith.

“In school when I’m thinking about quitting something, or getting off track, I can use Rick’s advice to keep pushing through,” said 12-year-old David Yeo.

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