Vail Daily column: A desire to give back |

Vail Daily column: A desire to give back

Valeria Rivero
Vail, CO Colorado

As I trudge through the snow with snowboard in hand, I make a quick check to make sure that all of my students’ bindings are tight, and ask how their feet are doing – mine feel like they’re suffering from minor frostbite. However, despite the minor discomfort, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. Volunteering for the local youth charity SOS Outreach has become my favorite part of winter.

I first joined SOS Outreach when I was 8, wanting to learn how to snowboard. However, I quickly learned that this organization offers much more. It is a way to give back to our community and help underprivileged kids get on the mountain. I am now a 17-year-old senior at Battle Mountain High School and have had the privilege of being a Junior Sherpa, or a junior mentor, to more than 50 students.

If you ask a Junior Sherpa why they choose to get up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning to help students, it’s common to hear, “Because I want to give back.” If you ask me why I’m a Junior Sherpa, I would say the same thing. Yet, my answer is not because that’s the right response, but because I mean it.

Without a doubt, SOS Outreach has helped me grow as a person. I remember coming to America from Bolivia, not knowing any English and being a timid 8-year-old who dreaded taking risks. That changed, though, when I joined SOS and dared to have courage on the mountain. I started gaining confidence from the first time I got up on my snowboard to the time my board first started undulating in smooth turns down the mountain. Learning about courage resulted in me making new friends and improving my English through the students I met. Today, the core values that SOS Outreach promotes – courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion – are engraved in me and have helped me along my journey. They have shaped me into who I am today.

I am a Junior Sherpa because I want to share my experience with others. One of my goals during every ride day is to help that shy student become more courageous. For instance, last season a girl, who had some of my introverted qualities, did not like to talk in the group. I made it my mission to have her converse with me, with me doing less talking and most of the listening. I started with making small conversations and progressed to the point where she was the most talkative student in the group. She ended up thanking me with a hug and a pink Starburst, which we all know is the best and least-shared candy.

Because I once was the underprivileged student who embraced the core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion, I know where my students are coming from, and I have the privilege of teaching them these values. I am leaving for college next year and am sad that I cannot continue with the kids I mentor. However, I will take my experiences from SOS Outreach and continue sharing them with others wherever I go. Giving back does not stop here.

Valeria Rivero is a senior at Battle Mountain High School.

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