DENVER, Jan. 17, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — For three decades, the youth development nonprofit, SOS Outreach (SOS), has been engaging Denver youth in a multi-year curriculum focused on building life skills and connecting participants to their communities. SOS Outreach began by taking 15 Denver youth up to Vail Mountain to snowboard for their first time ever. After that day, it was apparent how valuable and enriching the experience was for these Denver youth and there was a clear need to continue developing the program to reach more kids and deepen its long-term impact.
Now in its 30th season, SOS engages more than 550 youth in 4th-12th grade across the Denver metropolitan area, and 1,400 youth across the state of Colorado, with programs operating in Eagle County, Summit County, Steamboat, and Leadville.
With an emphasis on character building and leadership development, SOS developed the following curriculum for youth to build, develop, and progress life skills year over year.
SOS’ Multi-Year, Progressive Curriculum:
- Introductory/Learn to Ride (Year 1): An introduction to skiing/snowboarding and integrating one of six SOS core values (courage, compassion, discipline, integrity, wisdom, & humility) each ride day. Participants learn about applying the core value on the slopes (i.e. using courage to get on a lift for the first time) and then debrief on how they can apply that same value in their daily lives (i.e. using courage to stand up for a friend in need).
- Mentor Program (Years 2-6): In a 1:4 ratio, youth are matched with a volunteer adult mentor. In addition to on-mountain ride days throughout the season, youth also participate in community service activities and skill development workshops, all with the guidance and support of their mentor. Youth in the mentor program progressively take on more responsibility and focus on new skills year over year.
- Junior Mentor Program (Years 6-9): Mentor program graduates practice their leadership skills by mentoring younger participants and delivering SOS’ curriculum with the assistance of a volunteer adult mentor.
- Career Development Program: Teaches job skills through a two-week career skills intensive and connects participants and alumni ages 15+ with paid summer apprenticeships in the outdoor industry.
- Alumni Program: The Alumni Program provides opportunities for alumni to reconnect with the program through alumni ride days, the Career Development Program, and through volunteering opportunities with SOS. Additionally, it is a network to share scholarship and job resources to advance growth opportunities for alumni.
Data collected at the beginning and end of each season shows the curriculum is helping youth overcome challenges and develop a sense of belonging within their communities. SOS alumni have gone on to use the skills learned in the program in their personal and professional lives. Colorado-based alumni, Travis Tafoya developed his love for snowboarding through SOS and now works in the ski industry as the Senior Manager of Inclusive Access and Community Impact through Vail Resorts’ Epic Promise. “The skills I gained in SOS have been invaluable and were the fundamental building blocks that helped me turn my passion into a career,” says Tafoya. “Now I’m able to help young people across the country discover their passion for the mountains and ultimately advance equity across the ski industry.”
After years of adapting the curriculum based on the needs of its youth, SOS is focused on keeping more youth engaged for more years of the program. “Over the last 30 years, SOS has evolved to continually meet the needs of our kids and their communities,” says Executive Director, Seth Ehrlich, “no matter what societal or economic barriers exist, we are here to ensure that our young people have the chance to thrive. They are resilient, hard-working, and smart, many of them simply aren’t afforded the same opportunities as their peers. Through the intentionality of our mentor program and career development program, we are closing the opportunity gap for young folks in our community and will continue to do so for years to come.”
To learn more about SOS Outreach and its impact, visit: https://sosoutreach.org/
SOS Outreach is a national youth development nonprofit that cultivates a deep sense of belonging in kids and teenagers, unearthing their future potential and impact on our world. Since 1993, SOS Outreach has been using skiing/snowboarding to encourage youth to step outside of their comfort zones and discover new strengths within themselves. Guided by a multi-year curriculum, kids and teenagers receive mentorship, participate in community service, practice core values and build life skills. More than 3,000 young people from 15 communities and 10 states participate in the organization’s life-changing programs each year. To learn more, visit: sosoutreach.org.
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