Students reach new heights in ski partnership
While there is a large population of Latino Park City residents working at the resorts, there are not as many of those residents on the slopes. This year, two groups are working together to change that.
Last Saturday marked the first day of the Bright Futures-SOS Outreach ski and snowboard program for the season. Forty-nine Latino students from Park City High School gathered at Park City Mountain Resort to spend a day skiing and riding the mountain. SOS Outreach is a nationwide nonprofit that introduces youth to outdoor adventure sports and to leadership opportunities, As part of the program, students who were not in beginner lessons were also paired with a mentor who spent the day riding with them and getting to know them. Olivia Coble, regional program director for SOS Outreach, said that there are several benefits from the mentorship program – also known as the University Program — but one of the main ones is connecting students to a successful adult who has different life experiences and works in a different industry than what the students would typically be exposed to.
“It is great to open these kids up to other opportunities,” she said. “Also, (they) have someone to talk to about things going on in their lives or somebody that can be a sounding board for them and an encourager for them that isn’t immediately tied up into what they are doing day-in and day-out.”
It connects with Bright Futures’ goals, which provides underserved Latino students with the relationships and resources they need to have success in school and, later, in college.
Plus, the university program is not a traditional mentorship where students and adults are meeting in a classroom or coffee shop, she said. The platform for the relationship is to connect over an activity that both already enjoy doing.
“When you can start out immediately skiing and snowboarding and laughing and telling stories on chair lift rides, it’s a cool way to start off a relationship,” she said.
Rebeca Gonzalez, program manager of Bright Futures, said that another big part of the program is to provide an extra-curricular activity for the students that they can continue for the rest of their lives. She participated in a similar program called Niños on Skis when she was in grade school and said that it greatly impacted her life.
“By doing some type of extra-curricular activity, it gets them out and connected with nature and embracing their community,” she said. “They could be working in hotels, but instead they are actually on the mountain. For me, that’s the biggest reward, that they are enjoying their youth and out there trying something new.”
Every student that participates in the university program receives a pass to Park City Mountain Resort, and the students who are in the learn-to-ride/ski program receive five days with an instructor and five free days. Gonzalez said that she hopes that the students make full use of their passes, and based on reactions from last Saturday’s event, they will.
“They were all asking, ‘What time does the resort close? Can we stay?’” she said. “They know how big this gift is and they value this and appreciate it. They want to be on the mountain as much as possible.”
The programs have a small fee to join, but most of it is free for the students. The Christian Center of Park City and SOS Outreach helped provide jackets, snow pants and gloves, Aloha Ski Rentals provided lunch last week, while several other organizations provide lunch throughout the program. The Solomon Fund is the largest donor to SOS Outreach in Park City, Coble said.
Part of the program also includes giving back to the community, so students next week were set to help prepare gifts for the Christian Center’s Operation Hope. Gonzalez said that SOS Outreach and its programs support all of the values Bright Futures wants to teach students, especially emphasizing the importance of mentorship and setting future career and life goals.
“It’s interesting for me to see students see beyond high school,” she said. “That is why we really love this partnership. At Bright Futures, we talk about how it’s not just academics, it’s making sure you are doing extra-curricular activities and are involved in the community.”
A Parkite who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13 is giving scholarships and internships to three first-generation graduates from PCHS.