Vail Valley kids learn to lead
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Mack Gullickson 14, joined SOS Outreach after he moved to Colorado from Minnesota at age 9. He started in the fourth grade, totally new to snowboarding.
“SOS is important to me because it helps me help others and helps myself in the sense that I’m doing good,” Mack said. “It’s giving me confidence, I’m making friends and it motivates me because I teach and love snowboarding.”
Mack is now a junior sherpa, a counselor who provides praise and encouragement to younger kids in SOS Outreach. The Vail Valley nonprofit provides local kids who are disadvantage or struggling at school with ski gear, lift passes and teaches them to ski and snowboard.
Teachers nominate 25 kids a year who will benefit from participation in SOS.
Some are from single-parent homes struggling financially to students from well-off families whose parents have may have addictions problems and who are falling behind in school and need extra support and attention, said Dan Ben-Horin, SOS regional programs director for Eagle County.
“It keeps kids doing something positive, stops nonsense,” said Karen Nolasco, 17, a Battle Mountain High School junior from Edwards who is in her second season as a junior sherpa. “It’s fun ” everyone likes snowboarding.”
Karen likes to make videos with friends, usually just random reactions. She wants to go to Westwood College in Boulder to study criminal justice and wants to be a cop to keep society running smoothly.
“I like it because we get to teach little kids who wouldn’t likely have a chance to go, and they like it, they get satisfaction that they learn how to do something and help the community also,” Karen said. “I love it, hopefully more people will get involved.”
The junior sherpas are all past students who are now giving back to the program, Ben-Horin said.
“SOS helps youth, it’s giving kids options that otherwise wouldn’t have resources to see what their potential is,” Ben-Horin said. “You can see a difference in the level of appreciation from the kids.
“(SOS) teaches them how to make goals ” we try to have them focus on a bigger goals ” teach them to give back to others around them.”
Zander Lucero, of Avon, started SOS through school. His parents thought it would be a good thing for him to be a part of and he has in the program for six years.
“I want to go to college at art Institute in Denver for culinary arts to be a chef, travel and live where there’s mountains,” said Zander, who goes to Battle Mountain High School
‘I like (SOS) because we get to teach little kids who wouldn’t likely have a chance to go, and they like it,” Zander said. “There was one kid who did not want to snowboard, but he stayed in it for the year.
“(You) gain satisfaction from helping the community and having fun at the same time.”
Executive Director Arn Menconi, who founded SOS Outreach in 1993, talks about how the latest crop of students inspire him by demonstrating the “core values” of SOS while on the hill.
“(They) show courage by keep getting up when they fall down and integrity by, for example, returning lost hats in a lift line,” Menconi said.
To receive a lift ticket each student and sherpa must talk about their personal definition of values in front of the group, which promotes public speaking, and awareness of something larger than themselves, Menconi said.
SOS Outreach has 25 junior sherpas this year and it is one of the organization’s “proudest accomplishments,” said Seth Ehrlich, SOS development director.
“The goal isn’t to teach skiers and snowboards ” we use this as the hook, we use the sport to keep kids interested, to give them leadership skills to give to the community and the skills needed to live a good life,” Ehrlich said.
To receive their lift ticket each student and sherpa must talk about their personal definition of values in front of the group, which promotes public speaking, and awareness of something larger than themselves, Menconi said.
If you would like to donate or take part in the SOS Outreach program, ski and snowboard instructors are needed. Please check out the web site http://www.sosoutreach.org or call 970 926 9292