As high school students learned to carve turns, ride a lift and pick themselves up after slamming into the snow at Purgatory Resort, their mentors shared lessons about courage, integrity and discipline.
“Snowboarding creates a good canvas for learning ideas that may be a little abstract,” said Alex Vick, a mentor with SOS Outreach, the nonprofit that provides the classes. “... The hard skill would be snowboarding. The soft skill is courage.”
SOS Outreach has reached about 1,400 students at risk of becoming disengaged in school since the national program was brought to Durango 14 years ago. Now, Vick and the other founders of a new youth-serving organization in Durango are building on the success they have had working at SOS Outreach and focusing their attention on a year-round endeavor called The Hive that will teach music, art and skateboarding.
The Hive is envisioned as a safe space for students who may not be attending school or might not have healthy after-school activities. The group plans to offer help with homework, a sense of community and classes in music, art and skateboarding, said Kelsie Borland, executive director for The Hive, which is now the parent organization for SOS Outreach.
“We are hoping we’re the place that kids choose to be and don’t want to leave,” Borland said.
The Hive is expected to open at 600 Main Ave., Suite 111, this month and offer three to four workshops per week at first, she said. When it is fully operational, The Hive expects to be open seven days a week during the day and into the evening to serve youths who don’t have anywhere to go. The nonprofit expects to serve between 20 and 30 students per day and already has a long list of volunteer mentors interested in staffing the space, Borland said.
SOS Outreach mentor Chris Forrest said he was interested in skateboarding with students at The Hive to help maintain some of the relationships he has established through the snowboarding program. Through SOS Outreach, he has seen shy sixth graders become outgoing junior leaders in the program, he said.
He tries to keep in touch with students he mentors during the winter, but it’s tough, and he expects The Hive will help him stay connected, he said.
“Part of mentoring is being around, being available,” he said.
While mentors are a key part of The Hive model, the group expects its classes will be youth-directed based on what students want to learn, and at times, the classes will be youth-led, said Jeff Hamner, programs director for The Hive.
“A lot of kids just need an encouraging environment to be held in rather than being told what to do, and so what we aim to do is have student-led workshops where they are sharing their skills and their techniques with each other,” he said.
Some students in Durango are spending several hours after school on their phones and sometimes seek out substances, such as alcohol, that they see adults in town using, Hamner said.
Hamner hopes the group can engage those students and teach them healthy coping skills to deal with depression and tough life challenges, he said.
“Having an outlet like art or music or performance or writing or even just helping a friend do their homework – I think those things are going to just enliven the youth of Durango,” he said.
The new nonprofit also hopes to provide a venue for young musicians to hold their first performances, for artists to host their first shows and for skateboarders to drop into a half pipe for the first time, Vick said.
He envisions monthly shows for students to exhibit what they have been working on. For example, if The Hive held a series screen printing classes, the nonprofit could host a show to allow students to display their work, he said.
The group has raised about $12,000, about half of its goal of $24,000, to cover startup costs, Borland said.
The group has been applying for grants, but it’s found that many foundations aren’t interested in funding new groups, so Borland expects to rely heavily on the community for support, she said. The Hive also expects to sell memberships to help fund operations, she said. Students in need will be eligible for scholarships. Adults are also welcome to take classes and some have attended early Hive workshops, she said.
The Hive expects to hold an open house when the new space opens, but a date for the event has not been set.
To donate to The Hive, visit gofundme.com and search for The Hive Durango.