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The skills gained from SOS are skills that our participants carry with them through life. We’ve been told time and time again; how integral SOS has been in the development of our youth—removing barriers for them to unearth the courage to step outside of their comfort zones and discover new strengths within themselves. It’s how we turn “can’t” into “can” that makes a real difference. Our Alumni Relations Liason Cara Sherpa recently caught up with fellow SOS alum, Izzy R. to chat about where she is now and how SOS played a role in her trajectory.

Name Izzy R.
School: Columbia University 
Major: Mechanical Engineering 
Aspiration: My aspiration is to one day incorporate my engineering degree with working in a non-profit. I want to help others in whatever career I end up in!
1. How has SOS Impacted your life?

SOS has impacted me in innumerable ways. I joined the program when I was in third grade, so I feel that in many ways, SOS watched me grow up. SOS taught me how to see things from others’ perspectives, how to be part of a team, and how to persevere through challenges. One of the biggest ways SOS impacted me, though, was through the exposure it gave me to community service. Throughout my time in SOS, I had the opportunity to volunteer at food pantries, community dinners, animal rescues, fundraisers, and so much more. I learned how easy it is to get involved in your community, and how rewarding that process can be. Going into high school with so much exposure to the nonprofits in my valley allowed me to explore that interest and pursue some amazing opportunities like an internship for Habitat for Humanity. The workshops that I attended as a student in SOS equipped me with interview skills, work ethic skills, and ultimately knowledge about how to get involved with the things I care about!

2. Has there been a mentor in SOS who has helped you and how?

The SOS mentor who taught me the most was Brooke Carlsen. Brooke became the program coordinator for SOS right when I became a peer mentor, and I learned so much from her about what SOS stands for, as well as just how to be a good person. The amount of compassion she possesses is truly outstanding. She inspired me to one day incorporate working in a non-profit into my career, as she is driven by the notion of helping others. Brooke always had a smile on her face at every event, and made sure that each one of us knew our importance to the program. She is truly an amazing person and showed me that all you need to succeed in whatever you’re doing is a good attitude. 

3. Were you a peer mentor when you were in SOS? If so, how was it to help guide the younger participants?

 I had the privilege of being a peer mentor for all four years of high school. It was an extremely impactful experience for a variety of reasons. I learned so much from the kids that I mentored. There’s something really special about having a group of kids that you meet with throughout the year because you build up trust with each other and form quite a bond. I always loved coming up with games for my group to play, because you get to see barriers come down and kids become friends with one another. It was also such a rewarding experience getting to talk about the core values with my group. The kids that I mentored always surprised me with how insightful they were about what it means to have core values. I loved having the opportunity to share with young kids what SOS is all about. Getting to be outside with them while also equipping them with life skills and being their friend was extremely rewarding.

4. What advice/insight do you have for current SOS participants?

My advice to current SOS participants is to take full advantage of all the opportunities that SOS provides. Everyone involved in SOS, the mentors, peer mentors, fellow group members, alumni, they all care about you and each other very much and want to see you succeed. So my advice is to really invest yourself in the program because you will learn so much from each experience. In addition, get to know the people around you. If you’re a peer mentor, get to know your mentor as much as you can. Coordinate with them about new games you can play, new runs you can do, anything to make each day outdoors fun and educational. If you’re a kid in the program, talk to your mentors because they want to listen and they truly care about everything you have to say. The program is really just all about love and acceptance at its core, and that’s an amazing thing to get to be a part of!