SOS Graduates First Class of 4th Year Students!
By Leadville SOS Coordinator Sara Pederson
On March 30, twenty-nine local students and their families gathered at Colorado Mountain College to celebrate the end of Winter season with outdoor nonprofit SOS Outreach.
The students, ranging from elementary to middle school, spent the winter skiing and snowboarding at Ski Cooper with adult mentors from the community. SOS students are under-served youth identified by partners in the school as benefiting most from the SOS curriculum.
While honing their skills on the slopes, they also learn about leadership, character values, and community service.
Every day these youth spent on the mountain this season introduced a new core value, progressing through Courage, Discipline, Integrity, Wisdom, and Compassion. Students are encouraged not only to learn the meaning of these terms, but to put them into practice. They participate in leadership workshops and complete service learning projects.
Leadville youth gave back to their community by volunteering at the animal shelter, serving meals at the Elks Lodge and St. George’s, helping to shovel Harrison Ave after a snow storm, and participating in the annual 10th Mountain Division day honoring WWII veterans at Ski Cooper.
The March 30 graduation ceremony marked the 5th anniversary of SOS programs in Leadville and Ski Cooper. Support from the resort has allowed the nonprofit to serve over 50 youth since 2009.
The 29 students who graduated this week are long-term participants. Ten students completed their 5th year in the program, becoming the first Leadville kids to complete the entire SOS University curriculum. Next year, these students will have the opportunity to return to the program as peer mentors, passing along five years of SOS experience to younger students.
Key supporters who make the SOS Leadville program possible most notably includes Ski Cooper which has donated over $20,000 in in-kind support since 2009, covering the cost of lift tickets. The program also receives considerable support from Bill’s Rentals, who supplies the group with seasonal rentals every year.
The true heart of SOS Leadville, however, lies in the mentors who give their time to build relationships with these youth. Terry Ploot has spent five years investing in SOS kids, and the profound impact he has made in their lives was evident graduation night. As he referred to them as “my surrogate grandkids” and told them how proud he was of how much they’d grown – both in the sport, and developmentally – they responded with heartfelt thanks for the “best teacher ever”.
It is through this mentor-student relationship, along with the support of the community, that SOS is able to make a difference in the lives of Leadville youth. Lauren Kuhn commented on the growth she saw in her students over the year, saying they “taught
me a lot about facing fears and what good friendship is about”. SOS is so grateful to all the community members, and especially Ski Cooper, who make these impacts possible.
SOS Outreach is a national youth development non-profit which utilizes adventure sports to engage at-risk students in long-term mentorship relationships. The SOS curriculum encourages responsibility, self-confidence, service, and leadership skills by instilling five core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, and compassion. Since 1993, we have inspired positive decision making for healthy and successful lives.