Vail Resorts’ mountain access extending opportunities beyond the slopes
Like most kids, Kevin Garcia-Rios joined SOS Outreach for a chance to fully experience the mountains and to give snowboarding a shot. Garcia-Rios quickly immersed himself in Eagle County SOS programs and participated for the full 10 years. During that time he significantly progressed his skills on a snowboard, while simultaneously developing key leadership and communication skills through workshops, leadership panels, and community service activities that are all part of SOS’s progressive curriculum. “Being able to get up into the mountains to ski or ride is always awesome,” SOS Executive Director Seth Ehrlich said.
“But the true magic of SOS is using mountain sports as the catalyst to introduce young people to skills that will set them up for success in life. Ultimately, our goal is to help youth feel confident to walk through their own opportunities and thrive.”
In Eagle County, SOS is engaging local youth with the intent of doing just that. With both in-kind and financial support from Vail Resorts and Epic Promise, over 410 young people across the community are gaining access to the mountains and building skills for life. “We are so grateful for the support we receive from Vail Resorts.” Ehrlich said. “Our Eagle County programming operates entirely at Beaver Creek and Vail Mountain, this partnership is ultimately what makes our impact possible.”
Like kids in the program before him, and kids in the program now, Garcia-Rios dipped his toes into the world of snowboarding at Vail Mountain. Now an SOS alumni, Garcia-Rios is a ripping snowboarder. He carves hard, catches air, and even throws an occasional 360. But more than that, Garcia-Rios’ experience in SOS helped him grow as an individual off the mountain. “SOS impacted me because it gave me a value system that I still hold today,” Garcia-Rios said, “and it also inspired me to be involved in the community and give back.”
These values and inspiration that have been instilled in Garcia-Rios are more than just ‘talking the talk.’ Garcia-Rios has taken his desire to give back to the community to heart. He first attended Vail Mountain School, where he received the prestigious Taft Conlin scholarship for his excellence in academics, he then transferred to Williams College. Upon graduating as a student athlete, he decided to fully commit to his dream of studying medicine with the goal of becoming a doctor. “I specifically chose to pursue medicine because I want to give back to communities like ours, Garcia-Rios said.
After months of intensive studying for the MCAT, completing applications, and writing extensive essays, Garcia-Rios saw his hard work come to fruition. Among others, he has been accepted into Harvard, UVA, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, and University of Colorado, of which Colorado and Vanderbilt have offered him full-tuition scholarships.
While Garcia-Rios put in tremendous effort to get to this point, he is grateful for the support and for his relationship with Ehrlich, which was mutually developed during Garcia-Rios’ summer long internship with SOS a few years back. “I want to give a personal shout out to Seth for being such a great mentor and for helping me work through career decisions,” Garcia-Rios said.
“I am incredibly proud of the strides that Kevin has made,” Ehrlich said. “He is truly an exceptional person, and the cool thing is, in SOS, he’s not the exception. There are so many young people in our program, just like Kevin, who are taking lessons learned on the mountain and applying them to their everyday lives. It’s simply incredible.”
Garcia-Rios still has yet to make a decision on what school he will attend, but no matter where goes, he is dedicated to remaining involved with SOS. “I’m still involved with SOS through the Alumni Network,” Garcia-Rios said. “And I’m really grateful to still keep in touch and be involved with such a great program”.
SOS, alone, certainly did not get Garcia-Rios into medical school, it simply provided the framework for him and other kids just like him to pursue their passions and embrace opportunity. “How powerful is it to think,” Ehrlich said, “that what starts out on the mountains transpires into something so much greater than that?”