SOS Outreach launches new season of snow fun
VAIL — Beginning the first week of December, Avon-based nonprofit SOS Outreach launched a new season, partnering with ski resorts across Colorado to get 2,675 youth involved in its outdoor leadership programs. With the support of resort communities, SOS aims to transforming the lives of at-risk youth, giving them something positive to look forward to this season.
SOS Outreach is a youth nonprofit based in Avon that works with underserved youth who face a variety of risk factors. Students might speak English as a second language or have been previously involved with the court system. They might be from low-income backgrounds or be struggling in school.
SOS provides students the opportunity to experience mountain sports. As they learn the basics of boarding, they are mentored by positive adult volunteers. Mentors pair each day of snowboarding instruction with an in-depth discussion of one of SOS’s core values (courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility).
“SOS has made me a better person. I’m more rooted to their values, which are now mine,” said longtime participant David Garcia.
The season kicked off Friday with a day at Breckenridge Ski Resort. A group of students from STEM Launch K-8 school came up from Denver to learn to ski or snowboard for the first time. Last weekend saw SOS days at Breckenridge, Vail, Keystone, Beaver Creek, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin. Denver youth experienced snowsports for the first time with three different SnowCore days, and Eagle County, Summit County and Denver participants started the five-day Learn to Ride program. Denver participants also started the long-term University leadership program. Finally, a number of Eagle County mentors completed on-hill training to prepare them for the upcoming season.
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In all, 335 Colorado youth hit the slopes with SOS last weekend at six different resorts.
This winter, 2,300 of SOS’s winter participants will be riding at Vail Resorts’ Colorado mountains. For Vail Resorts, serving local kids is part of their EpicPromise vision to ignite passion for the outdoors and support local communities for a bright, sustainable future.
“Our resort communities are better places because youth have access to SOS’ programs” said Nicky DeFord, Vail Resorts senior manager of community giving and engagement. “It is exciting to see kids’ lives transformed through snowsports and positive relationships with mentors.”
BUILDING ON SUCCESS
SOS is under new leadership this year, and Seth Ehrlich, interim executive director, is committed to continuing to build on the organization’s previous successes.
“As youth build passion for outdoor activities we consistently see them developing deeper community connections. By becoming a part of something bigger than themselves, youth are more likely to stay in school and become successful long term,” Ehrlich said.
SOS’s positive influences don’t end on the hill. Mentors and students attend leadership and life skills workshops together, as well as participating in community service projects. Starting with the introductory five-day Academy program, the organization builds long-term relationships between youth and mentors.
After finishing Academy, students are invited back to complete the year-round University program, which combines summer and winter sports with service projects and goal-setting workshops that help students become leaders of change in their community. After completing University, students who have shown extraordinary commitment to SOS’s values are invited to participate in the new Masters curriculum, which provides intensive social justice advocacy training. After up to nine years in SOS, students graduate not only as expert snowboarders but also as community leaders committed to making a difference in the world.