MANCOS, Colorado – SOS is universally recognized as a call for help. In Morse code, it is tapped out as three quick beeps, three longer beeps, then three quick beeps again. However, in the regions around Purgatory Ski Resort, it is known as the Snowboarding Outreach Society. “Help” in this case comes in the form of area students learning about themselves and others while boarding down the slopes of Purg.
The S.O.S. program at Mancos Schools is supervised by Jaime Becktel, Mancos Middle School’s new Exceptional Student Services teacher. She, along with two other mentors – Jori McCann and Neco Escoe of the Montezuma Youth Alliance – take a group of four middle school students and three high school students to Purgatory Ski Resort every Wednesday for six weeks. All the gear is provided free of charge for students, including snow gear, boots, gloves, goggles, and boards. During the day-long excursion, students from Mancos and surrounding schools work with their mentors and professional snowboarding instructors to learn the ins and outs of snowboarding as well as the core values of SOS.
It is these core values that really align with Mancos Schools’ PBL/Portrait of a Graduate values. The eight values of SOS are courage, discipline, integrity, compassion, wisdom, humility, responsibility, and patience. Compare these with the Portrait of a Graduate competencies of problem solving, civic mindedness, integrity, teamwork, growth mindset, and practical skills. Students are really practicing all of these competencies and skills while also getting to “hang as a crew” where the “stoke is high.”
Becktel says the opportunity has been a good one for all of the students. “They get to be outside and it’s gorgeous! No one goes off by themselves; they’re all a team.”
For freshman student Damon Starr, it’s the snowboarding that has taught him to keep going even when it gets hard. “It’s been pretty cool. It’s a good learning program and it’s free. I’m looking forward to being able to go down the mountain proficiently. Almost dislocated my hip, but I got up and kept going.”
Sophomore Kaiden Hobbs appreciates the chance to meet people from other areas. “My favorite part of it is connecting with the community. There are other kids that come, getting to meet other people from other places. I didn’t know how the first time was going to go, I was nervous. It’s a cool opportunity to be able to do things with other people that you don’t really know. It’s taught me to be a more respectful person, personally.”
After the close of the SOS season, students will still be able to rent gear for free so that they can continue to snowboard. They may even be able to earn a free season pass. Finally, there’s a big graduation-type celebration in the spring and afterwards, an all-hands clean-up of the slopes as a thank-you to Purgatory.