KIPPsters from KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy and KIPP Denver Collegiate High School got a real-life lesson about what it means to get back up after a fall, as teachers from the two schools organized the first ever KIPP Colorado snowboard and ski trips. Students across all grades participated, and, for many, this was their first time on a snowboard or skis.
The schools partnered with SOS Outreach, a Colorado nonprofit founded in 1993 to help teach youth character strengths like courage, integrity, wisdom, and compassion by connecting them with the outdoors through activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and camping.
Phoebe Novitsky, a special education teacher at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, organized the snowboarding outing to Vail Mountain for KIPPsters in January. Having managed youth programs for SOS Outreach in the past, she hopes providing access and exposure to new experiences will help students step out of their comfort zones and learn how failure can be integral to being successful.
“This experience aligns with the character strengths KIPP teaches, like grit, resilience, and positivity,” said Novitsky. “Accepting that an experience is challenging and pushing through it is a lesson that aligns with KIPP’s mission and values. We’re excited to continue to find ways to integrate more outdoor learning experiences to complement what students are learning in the classroom.”
Alyssa Bull, who helped organize the outing for KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, saw her students take a strong interest in the mountains.
“It was really cool to see what each student took away from this experience,” said Bull. “Some kids didn’t end up loving it but they still were glad to have tried it, while other kids were asking ‘when can I move to the mountain?’ Other students hadn’t realized there were so many people who worked in the mountains to keep them running each day. It got them to reflect on their own interests and possibilities in outdoor recreation that they might have never considered.”
SOS outreach coordinates with the mountain parks to provide inexpensive tickets to the slopes. For $25, they provide each student with a lift ticket, ski rentals, a helmet, boots, and skis/snowboard. They also provide all the special clothing students need, like ski pants, jackets, gloves, and goggles.
Ms. Novitski and Ms. Bull both hope to continue and grow the program, so that students can continue to learn about the outdoors and about themselves in the process.
“As a math teacher, I feel like I have great days in the classroom and not-so-great days,” said Bull. “It can be hard to make math memorable all the time, especially for every student. But to have a day when you can tell students that they are going to grow from this and remember and cherish it for a long time is really cool, because I feel the same way. I’m going to remember this and cherish this forever.”