Graduation day a big one at SOS |

Graduation day a big one at SOS

Veronica Whitney

To graduate from the Snowboard Outreach Society University program, Gypsum1s John Sailer, 10, had to snowboard, clean a fire engine and talk about courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion on more than a few chairlift rides.Sailer was among 40 students who graduated last week from the program, which is for students who have already graduated from SOS1s Learn to Ride program. On its ninth season, Learn to Ride has taught snowboarding to 525 children from across Colorado.SOS1s participation has grown steadily in the past years. During the 2000-01 season, 900 participants<including mentors and students<participated, more than double the number since the 1998-99 season.SOS University students commit to five days of riding, in which SOS1s curriculum five core values<courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion<is followed.3It was great, Sailer said, 3I liked going to the top of the mountain, and I also learned to be nice.Places where the students did their service work included:? The ABC School.? The Humane Society.? Vail Valley Medical Center.? The Thrifty Shop.? Local fire and police departments.3I was curious of how the kids would react to mixing snowboarding with community outreach activities, said Will Craft, a 25-year-old of Eagle-Vail who volunteered with SOS as a 3sherpa.In five days spread throughout the ski season, Craft, who1s a cook at Masato1s Japanese restaurant in Avon, mentored four 12-year-olds. Some days were spent on the slopes, others at the Humane Society in Eagle, where children walked the dogs and played with the cats.Each day on the slopes, the kids would discuss the five-core curriculum.3They totally took to the program, Craft said. 3They thought the words carefully. They really seemed to take it to heart. They not only enjoyed the snowboarding, they also enjoyed the community service. They all wanted to take a dog home.Graduation for six students is pending their completion of community outreach, which will be completed on April 27 at the Interstate 70 clean up.3My favorite part was when we went to visit the Eagle Public Library to make the invitation cards for the graduation, Sailer said.Graduating students got a T-shirt, sunglasses and a diploma during the graduation ceremonies at the Eagle County Building in Eagle.3I enjoyed it immensely, Craft said. 3It made me feel like I was a 12-year-old kid again.3Volunteer work can be hectic, and some of those Saturdays and Sundays I would have liked to get up on the mountain with my friends, he added. 3But it was a really positive experience for myself.3The University program is the most complete program we offer, said Arn Menconi, founder and director of SOS. 3It gives the children the opportunity of learning how to snowboard and help in the community.

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