Vail Mountain School students spread out and serve in honor of MLK Day |

Vail Mountain School students spread out and serve in honor of MLK Day

Michael Colores, an Americorp construction crew member demonstrates how to install insulation into walls to VMS students Alexander Viola and Robert Harnick on Martin Luther King Day.
Nina Riggio | Vail Daily


Vail Mountain School students spread out in the community for Martin Luther King Day service projects. Along with Upper School students all around the community, middle and lower school students also pitched in.

Middle School Service Projects

6th Grade: Lindsay Humphries of the Vail Veterans Program educated students about the organization’s work and adaptive skiing. Students then wrote letters to veterans who will be visiting in March and created welcome banners that will be used by the program during their visit.

7th Grade: Worked at Vail Library, and made friendship bracelets for the Children’s Inn in Maryland

8th Grade: Created fleece blankets for the Salvation Army

Lower School Service Projects

Kindergarten & 1st Grade: Made trail mix and thank you notes for the Vail Fire and Police Departments and the Vail and Avon Librarians

2nd Grade: Baked cookies and wrote thank you notes for Vail Ski Patrol

3rd Grade: Made dog biscuits for the Eagle Animal Shelter

4th Grade: Created thank you notes and baked treats for members of the VMS community who serve others

5th Grade: Worked on projects that are a part of their partnership with Children Inspiring Hope, a non-profit that works with schools in Ghana. Among the day’s work, VMS students are organizing a bake sale to raise funds for students in Ghana.

VAIL — Dozens of Vail Mountain School students and faculty spread out across the valley on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day service day.

King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, encourages everyone to help someone else. It’s a better way to honor her husband’s legacy than taking another day off, she says.

VMS has been doing exactly that for three decades. Kate Blakslee is in charge of it all.

“VMS has honored the words of Martin Luther King Jr. for as long as I can remember,” Blakslee said.

They’re lucky to have the opportunity to help, something the VMS community embraces, Blakslee said.

“These kids will take these message to their homes, and hopefully pass them along,” she said.

VMS teacher Brian Sweeney took students to the Eagle River Valley Food Bank, run by Our Community Foundation, to build on a partnership that he started earlier this year in his Applied Ethics Class.

Ethics are practical not theoretical, at least in Sweeney’s class.

They packed boxes, organized donations and even scrubbed compost buckets.

“We wanted the students to understand how important it is to create partnerships,” Sweeney said.

It’s not just labor to fill a day, it’s ideas to fill a lifetime, Sweeney said.

“It helps students understand how and why there can be food insecurity in an area with so much wealth,” Sweeney said.

Our Community Foundation is relatively new. When VMS students showed up to work last year, the warehouse floor had just been painted and was still wet, so they couldn’t work. Instead they went to a local store and tried to buy as much healthy food as they could for $10.

Lessons learned

Prior to MLK Day, VMS students talk about King’s achievements and the importance of community service. On Monday students in every grade were partaking in age-appropriate activities ranging from baking cookies to installing insulation in a Habitat for Humanity home.

The lessons of VMS’ Day On were not lost on freshman Samantha Corenman and sophomore Sebastian Hellmund. They helped build and fill 100 food boxes.

“Hunger is a bigger issue than we realized,” Corenman said.

Working people who make the valley run need the most help, she said.

“When you get a chance to look behind the curtain and the expensive homes of some of the people who live here, you get a clearer view of how difficult it can be because it’s so expensive,” Corenman said.

Julie Littman teaches English at VMS where she graduated in 2003. You might remember her as a member of the U.S. Ski Team.

Littman said one of her favorite VMS student memories is shoveling snow off the roof of a 10th Mountain Division hut as a MLK Day service project. This year they added splitting firewood to their 10th Mountain hut sojourn. VMS students were also at the Minturn senior center to help decorate for Valentines Day. Other groups of students helped out at Roundup River Ranch, the Thrifty Shops and the Summit County animal shelter. The list is long and rewarding.

Redefining Greatness

Kabe ErkenBrack is the middle school director at VMS and calls MLK Day service one of the school’s best traditions. It tries to teach students that they are called to be something greater than they are, he said.

“You’re more than an individual. You’re part of a community. You have talents and passions, and we’re trying help them use those talents and passions to improve their community,” ErkenBrack said.

They’re trying to redefine greatness as serving others. That means anyone can be great, ErkenBrack said.

“Find some greatness today,” ErkenBrack said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and


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