For kids at Aki Kurose Middle School in Seattle, snowboarding is more than an outdoor adventure—it’s a chance to develop leadership skills and character.

Mitra Vahdati (Site Coordinator with Communities In Schools of Seattle) is passionate about taking kids snowboarding because it provides fun new experiences and helps students work on goal setting and accountability. In order to go on the annual snowboarding trip, students have to demonstrate progress toward goals that they co-create with Mitra, which often focus on improving attendance. Learning to snowboard also presents its own unique challenges, and each day in Snoqualmie is an opportunity for kids to show resilience.

“My favorite part was going on the chairlift,” said one student. “My adrenaline was pumping, and I was scared but also excited. I was especially proud when I was able to get off the chairlift without falling!” 

For the past few winters, Mitra has coordinated this trip in partnership with SOS Outreach, an organization that engages underserved youth in outdoor adventure experiences. Outdoor sports like skiing and snowboarding can be difficult to come by in Seattle without resources to buy a lift ticket, rent gear, and pay for lessons—let alone make the trip out to the mountains. SOS facilitates snowboarding lessons and provides students with snow pants, coats, gloves, goggles, while CIS of Seattle covers food, transportation, registration fees, and rental gear. On the mountain, SOS mentors and CIS chaperones walk kids through snowboarding basics and use each session to engage students with the SOS core values: courage, integrity, discipline, wisdom, compassion and humility. Most excitingly, the prospect of going on the trip helped several students improve their attendance noticeably after being chronically absent or late to school.

“This snowboarding trip is something I’ll remember for a long time,” said one student on the bus ride home this winter. “I hope I can go again next year!” 

This story is shared courtesy of Communities In Schools of Seattle.