The League is proud to work closely with SOS Outreach, a national youth development nonprofit that uses outdoor adventure and positive adult mentors to teach character development and leadership skills to underserved and at risk youth. The organization uses snow sports targeting first timers to learn to ski or snowboard partnered with a core value curriculum. They outfit them with skis or boards, winter clothing, instruction and lift tickets. They use this fun day on the mountain to do more than just teach kids how to safely try a new activity, they pair kids up with mentors and empower kids to think about how the confidence and skills learned on the mountain can be applied to other aspects of their lives.
Right now, SOS Outreach serves 600 kids in Lake Tahoe. As the kids move through the SOS Outreach program, they are asked to get involved with their community by volunteering and participating in service learning and community events. That’s where the League comes in, and provides special hands-on, educational days of service for SOS Outreach kids.
Theresa Papandrea, senior regional director for SOS Outreach, manages programs on both sides of Lake Tahoe, in California, and Nevada. She is passionate about providing fun, educational experiences that allow kids to give back in meaningful ways to their local community. “Lots of studies show that kids that give back can develop important skills such as critical thinking, a sense of civic responsibility, and an increased sense of self efficacy that will be useful to them throughout their high school, college, and work lives. These youth also grow up to be have a voice and active member in their community. The idea is that the kids will want to give back to community that helped get them on the mountain for the first time,” she explained, adding that partnering with the League over the last six years has been a perfect way for kids to meet the service requirements for the program and feel they are making a difference in their community.
“Our kids love Lake Tahoe and I can see that a light bulb goes off when they get involved with Keep Tahoe Blue. They realize that we all love this place and start to see how special it is that people from all over the world come here. They get that it is important we keep it nice and the beauty of the lake depends on it,” Papandrea said.
SOS Outreach kids have worked with the League to identify invasive plants, monitor stormwater drains and participate in littler clean ups. One fun thing that Papandrea has noticed is that over time kids who’ve worked with Keep Tahoe Blue learn facts and details about the Lake, and will tell her things like how deep the Lake is, what type of invasive plants are present and what sort of actions people can take to help reduce pollution etc. Though involvement with the League, kids become ambassadors for Lake Tahoe.
The League’s Community Engagement Manager Marilee Movius mentors 4 kids through SOS Outreach and has done so for years. This gives her the opportunity to volunteer with the same group of kids each year, and see their growth and interests develop. “It is wonderful to be a mentor in the SOS Outreach program for the fourth season. Not only is it fun snowboarding with the youth, it is enriching to be a role model in their lives and help them grow as a people,” she said. “Through the program, we give back to the community through service work and it really inspires all of us to make Tahoe the best place to live and enjoy.”
This partnership is one example of how the League works to show leadership and engage with great programs already in place in the Tahoe Basin. “We are on both sides of the lake, and so are you,” said Papandrea. “It is really exciting to see all the ways we can work together to protect Lake Tahoe.”