Vail Daily column: Student-athlete rises to the occasion
Youth Leader Spotlight
• Eagle River Youth Coalition is now accepting nominations for our 2015 Youth Awards Presented by The Colorado Trust, and new this year, an Outstanding Parent Award. There are two Youth Award Categories: The Summiteer and The Legacy Builder.
• Youth Award and Parent Winners will be announced at the annual Valley Tastings: Food for Youth event on Oct. 1 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Donovan Pavilion. Award finalists will receive an invitation to attend Valley Tastings. In addition to award presentations, fabulous food from local restaurants, live music and a silent auction are all featured. Tickets for this event are on sale now at www.eagleyouth.org.
“Oh captain! My captain! Rise up and hear the bells!”
Walt Whitman’s poetry perfectly describes 17-year-old Jack Skidmore, Battle Mountain varsity soccer team’s co-captain and long-standing bell ringer for the Vail Valley Salvation Army. When you do the math, Skidmore has been volunteering in Eagle County for more than half of his life. A natural-born athlete and leader, Skidmore displays a penchant for giving back because he believes strongly in making the lives of others better.
“Knowing that my actions play a role in improving people’s lives in my community is very satisfying,” Skidmore said.
Now that school is back in session, daily life for Skidmore consists of a rigorous course load including advanced placement and dual-enrollment classes, followed by nightly practice with the Huskies’ men’s varsity soccer team. Skidmore plays the crucial goalie position, and has been a force to be reckoned with since he was a sophomore. It doesn’t hurt that Skidmore is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and has an incredible reach. But reaching beyond his athletic talents, goalkeeper is a perfect position for Skidmore because of his knack for problem solving and calmly rising to the occasion. As he differentiates himself on the field as the only player on his team who can touch the ball with his hands, Skidmore leads by example and his hands-on approach is contagious.
Skidmore embodies the purpose of The Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Youth Leaders Council: To provide an opportunity for youth to have a voice in the community, gain leadership skills and complete different civic engagement and service-learning projects throughout the school year. When he joined the Youth Leaders Council as a freshman, he had already been pursuing these opportunities, so he was an asset from the beginning. As Skidmore says, “If you do not voice your opinions, nothing will ever change.”
Prior to joining the Youth Leaders Council, Skidmore participated in two service trips as a volunteer at a Cambodia orphanage organized by the local nonprofit Children’s Global Alliance. This experience changed his outlook on life. When he returned the following summer as a mentor to the younger volunteers, he remembered how rewarding it felt to be a role model.
“I was the one that the younger kids looked to when they weren’t sure what to do,” he said. “They would come to me for advice and help with whatever I was working on.”
Skidmore’s motto when encouraging fellow students to volunteer is “Go out and do it!”
He says there are hundreds of nonprofits throughout the Vail Valley that are looking for students to help them make a change.
“Volunteer to make a difference for someone else,” he said. “Ringing the bells can make some kid’s Christmas dream come true!”
Youth are motivated by different reasons to serve others. Skidmore’s motivation has evolved from following in his parents’ benevolent footsteps, to having a greater empathy for others, and unfortunately, learning first-hand what it feels like to need help.
Lessons learned: Helping others is best medicine
In the spring of 2013, Skidmore had the biggest win of his life with a first-place podium at the U.S. Junior National Freestyle Mogul Championships. As a result, he was named a Young Gun, which is a national recruitment program for promising young moguls skiers. At this time, Skidmore’s dedication and commitment to mogul skiing became his main focus. Unfortunately, a few months later he found out that he had incurred a stress fracture to his lower back. Finding himself sidelined from training and competition, Skidmore’s focus shifted as he now had more time to give back to others. This is where Skidmore found the best medicine of all.
He volunteered for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Alpine NorAms as a gate judge, delivered lunches to Rocky Mountain Freestyle volunteers stationed on the hill and shot action photos for the Vail Daily. He continued to ring bells for the Vail Valley Salvation Army and was chosen to serve on Battle Mountain’s Link Crew, a selective group of upperclassmen who mentor freshman. His grades and mature demeanor earned him on spot on National Honor Society. Once he was healthy again, Skidmore continued playing soccer and joined the Huskies’ men’s basketball varsity team. Leaving competitive mogul skiing was extremely difficult, but he learned that it’s not what you do, but who you are that counts.
“Living to compete has to end at some time; who you are outside of sports is what you will become,” he said. “Coming out of my injury showed me there was more I could be doing for myself and others. You start to realize that a race result doesn’t define your life.”
His new outlook infuses positive energy into the Youth Leaders Council.
“I like how we have the opportunity to make suggestions to adults who are in charge of youth organizations,” he said. “The speakers understand us and listen, and we have a chance to change opinions. That is gratifying.”
From where does this confidence and leadership come? Skidmore credits his parents for always being there for him.
“They know what I’m capable of, and they encourage me to be the best I can be,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a pain, and I thank them for their endless support.”
With all that Skidmore has experienced at such a young age, he is poised to make a positive difference wherever he lands in the future. Skidmore is applying to several top colleges, including University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Wherever he goes, we know Skidmore will benefit whichever college he attends. The decisions that Skidmore makes now will most definitely lead to great things for this outstanding individual who has helped shape our community’s youth. In the meantime, Skidmore will continue rising to the occasion: Saving goals, ringing bells and serving others. Skidmore’s parting words to me were “Go Huskies!” Indeed, Captain Jack, rise up.
Carol Johnson is the marketing and administrative coordinator at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services. The Youth Leaders Council is a program of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers collaborative prevention programs and services to tackle the main areas that affect the development of teens and adolescent youth including: substance abuse prevention, emotional wellness and mental health promotion and academic achievement. In addition to Youth Leaders Council, Eagle River Youth Coalition offers various levels of parenting education and trainings for community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.