October Youth Leader Spotlight: Vail Mountain School senior Michael Resnick
October 29, 2017
When I interview local high school teens for the Eagle River Youth Coalition monthly youth leader spotlight column, we typically meet at a local coffee shop. It's common for friends to say hi to the youth, or an acquaintance of my own will greet me. It's a small town, right? But when the CEO and President of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association walks by at Loaded Joe's and says hello to the October Eagle River Youth Coalition youth leader, it makes me pause.
Michael Resnick, a senior at Vail Mountain School, looks up from our table to reciprocate warm greetings to Tiger Shaw, mention the upcoming Olympics and politely introduce me. We proceed to discuss the current political situation in the Korean Peninsula, and Resnick is very engaged. I can't help but reflect that Resnick clearly knows some influential people. Yet, as I learned during our interview, it is not VIP circles of influence that motivate him — far from it.
When he was in seventh grade, Resnick raised money for the Special Olympics for his bar mitzvah. Sometimes, positive energy created by a youth's project tends to dwindle, but his passion for those with disparities was just getting started. He partnered with Vail Resorts Adaptive Instructor Mindy Brill during eighth grade and arranged for a guided mountain tour so his classmates could learn what it was like to ski blind.
Teenage life then took over, as it does for some teens who have multiple passions, and his junior year he led his ski team to winning a state championship right after playing a starting position for his soccer team. This wasn't exactly the plan, though. Resnick, a former FIS alpine racer at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, was no longer able to compete at that level due to a back injury.
"Michael's story is a great example of being able to move on from a setback and show tremendous resilience," said Maggie Pavlik, VMS director of upper school. "This wasn't the path that Michael thought he would be following.
"I admire how he was able to lead our school's ski team to a state victory; this required a lot of dedication on Michael's part and good leadership and modeling," adds Pavlik, who believes that one's character is shaped by how one moves on from set backs.
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State champs think big
Fast-forward to senior year, and Resnick has returned to his true passion of helping others, with lofty aspirations of instructing a new teacher at VMS, who is physically impaired, to ski. The ambitious plan requires that Resnick earn his PSIA Level 1 and collaborate with Barbara Szwebel, of the Vail Resorts Adaptive Program.
So, this amazing act hasn't yet happened. But listening to him describe his plans, ideas and goals, I can tell that he is so sincere and confident about the potential positive outcome. I can't wait to hear how it turns out, but regardless, I think the endeavor speaks volumes about his character.
In the meantime, like many seniors, he's applying to colleges and would like to major in international relations. I can only imagine how — if given the chance — he will change global disparities with this type of background and a heart full of empathy.
Bringing people together
Needless to say, Eagle River Youth Coalition is proud to have Resnick serving on our Youth Leaders Council, sharing his voice and opinions.
"Leadership is about showing confidence in an uncomfortable situation," Resnick said. "When to take charge, when to sit back and when to bring different groups of people together" are other traits Resnick thinks good leaders should possess. He shares about bridging a gap on his soccer team with players from two different schools — VSSA and VMS. One could easily shy away from that type of awkward situation, but Resnick, who was voted captain by his teammates, relishes the challenge; he's friendly with athletes from both schools, so it made natural sense for him to be a conduit.
"It's hard to navigate, but so important to be inclusive," Resnick said. No one asked him to do this. He did it.
Overcoming setbacks, seeing opportunities to make change and reacting in a positive manner is true leadership. With so much divisiveness going on right now in the world, I was left feeling inspired by Resnick and his outlook. Who can you bring together?
Carol Johnson is the community education manager of the Eagle River Youth Coalition. Visit eagleyouth.org to learn more about how ERYC collaborates with youth-serving organizations and encourages prevention and leadership opportunities.