Guest editorial: Park City students live Youth Sports Alliance’s motto — play, learn and dream | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Park City students live Youth Sports Alliance’s motto — play, learn and dream

Emily S. Fisher
Youth Sports Alliance executive director

When the school bells ring across Park City on Fridays in January, hundreds of elementary school students rush to lunch rooms. Teams of volunteers stand ready to help students pull on snow pants, tuck mittens into sleeves and gather ski gear before climbing onto motor coaches heading to Park City Mountain Resort. Similar scenes take place across Summit County on weekly early release days at elementary, middle and junior high schools. In addition to learn-to-ski programs, students are also learning to box, cook, ski jump and boulder. Each week in January, 657 students learned new skills in a safe supervised environment after school through the Youth Sports Alliance's after-school programs, Get Out & Play (GO&P) and ACTiV8.

YSA introduces kids to sports and inspires them to keep moving throughout their lives. For more than a decade, we have been providing affordable and engaging offerings to students in our community. Our after-school programming started as learn-to-ski classes offered to students only attending Park City School District elementary schools. Today, we provide programming throughout the school year delivering more than 30 sports and healthy lifestyle classes to 1st through 9th grade students attending 11 Summit County schools, as well as homeschools.

The teamwork of people in our town joining together to get kids — regardless of financial constraints — outside, active and away from their screens is humbling and inspiring. YSA leads a community collaboration that brings together 66 nonprofits and businesses, as well as dozens of granting organizations and volunteers to provide opportunities for our community's children to grow and learn. Our partners provide transportation, venues, scholarships, gear, safety equipment, instruction and often clothing. Volunteers contribute more than 500 hours each year to make sure programs run smoothly.

The largest number of students in our after-school classes this winter are learning to ski or snowboard through a grant from Vail Resorts EpicPromise. Four hundred youth head to the mountain each week from the Park City School District's four elementary schools, Weilenmann School of Discovery, Park City Day School, Sail Academy and homeschools. Nearly 1/3 of these students are low-income. To get underprivileged students out on the mountain, Vail Resorts' EpicPromise steps up to donate lessons and lift tickets. Rossignol provides gear — skis, boards and boots — that is fitted to the students by Switchback Sports. The Christian Center of Park City provides ski clothes; Scott provides helmets; and the Solomon Fund subsidizes their transportation. Over the past six years, through YSA's partnership with Park City Mountain Resort and Vail Resorts EpicPromise, 2,300 students have learned to ski and snowboard through GO&P.

The impact of YSA's program is growing. One thousand students have participated in our ACTiV8 program since it was launched two and a half years ago. More than 75 percent of students participate in our programs during their elementary school careers. This past year we expanded our programming to South Summit Middle School and Park City Day School middle. Thanks to our community collaboration, all Summit County students can live our motto, Play, Learn, Dream.