Blue Ribbon Awards Winner Highlight: SOS Outreach
The Blue Ribbon Awards honor excellence in business on the South Shore. Each year seven winners are chosen based on their contributions to our economy, culture, and community. The Experience Award specifically highlights a business or organization that is providing compelling and captivating experiences to our community and our guests. SOS Outreach, a non-profit organization that provides recreational and mentoring opportunities for local youth, took home the 2017 Award for Experience. We sat down with the Senior Regional Director, Theresa Papandrea, from SOS Outreach to learn more about the organization’s impressive accomplishments and how they contribute to the South Shore community.
Since you won the Experience Blue Ribbon Award in 2017, what events or programs has your organization completed or is currently involved in?
The weekend of Jan. 27, 2018, SOS and its founding partner, Vail Resorts, joined forces to provide the first annual Leadership Day for 12 Lake Tahoe participants. The Leadership Day was developed to allow our participants to connect with employees and begin exploring career pathways within the outdoor industry. Throughout the day, SOS participants met with Heavenly employees in departments ranging from Marketing to Ski Patrol to learn about their roles and responsibilities, in addition to their unique backgrounds and trajectories that led them to their current positions. Sharing career advice and words of encouragement, the day demonstrated the ongoing commitment of Vail Resorts to create a culture of giving and by providing opportunities for youth.
Some more exciting news to hit the South Shore is that we’re launching our first ever University program at Kirkwood Mountain this weekend, in addition to an Academy program for 40 South Lake Tahoe and Douglas County youth. When all is said and done this winter, SOS will have served over 650 youth across both South Lake and North Lake Tahoe regions this winter!
What has helped you to be recognized as one of the most standout non-profit organizations in Tahoe?
In recent years, SOS has made significant enhancements in its mentor recruitment processes. These improvements have been instrumental in providing the most impactful programming possible for our participants. In response to leading research in the field of positive youth development which indicates that the consistency and longevity of the relationship between a mentor and his/her mentees creates the most significant impact for underserved youth, we have learned to foster a multi-year commitment to SOS as opposed to a one-off mentoring model. By changing the way we engage with and educate our mentors on the importance of their commitment to our youth, in addition to being highly receptive of their feedback, we have achieved a mentor and volunteer retention rate of over 80% for the Tahoe program. This increased buy-in to our programs is instrumental in our ability to implement high-quality programs.
What are some of the future goals of SOS Outreach?
In line with our ongoing commitment to providing consistent programming for our youth and mentors, SOS is dedicated to increasing summer programming opportunities in the coming years. This year, we have 150 South Lake Tahoe youth enrolled in our long-term mentor-based program, which is the most we’ve ever had. Within the next three years, our goal is to increase summer programming to engage youth in up to 25 days of outdoor adventure, community service projects and leadership workshops alongside positive adult mentors. Last summer, we partnered with OARS skincare products to provide 18 youth along with mentors a one-day rafting trip. We look forward to duplicating this experience as well as adding on hiking, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, skateboard and mountain biking for the summer of 2018.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The week of Feb. 5, 2018, 1,718 SOS youth will take to the slopes across the organization’s 15 program locations, making it the largest week of programming in the organization’s history. Of these, 430 are North and South Lake Tahoe participants. It is only with the ongoing support of our local partners like the Tahoe Chamber that we are able to make this kind of aggregate impact.