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The Importance of Belonging

For 30 years and counting, we’ve been empowering 3,100+ youth each year to develop the confidence to belong everywhere. Across 15 communities we help change the dynamic from youth wondering if they belong in these spaces to them feeling represented, included, and welcomed. We show our young people at all stages of our programs “You belong here, your voice matters, and you are valued.” 

We know that belonging matters, but why? 

Characterized as a “loneliness epidemic” by United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, mental health challenges are rising across theworld, particularly in young people, and data shows that in the last three months, a Global Youth Culture study found that “63% of teens reported feelings of loneliness. Isolation and lack of belonging can pose serious long-term implications. 

According to Psychology Today, a sense of belonging in youth can improve attendance, academic motivation, classroom participation, mental health, physical well-being, and relationships with peers. 

At SOS, we’re empowering young people to belong in the mountains, with their peers & mentors, in their community, in the outdoor industry, and as leaders. And our progressive curriculum was intentionally designed to evolve with our youth as they progress through the program. 

Our Introductory Program brings youth onto the slopes, equipping them with the skills, gear, and most importantly, the confidence, to belong in a space that has historically been exclusive. 

Our Mentor Program further reinforces belonging in the mountains, while introducing mentorship, service to the community, and strengthened peer-to-peer connection through skill-building workshops. 

Finally, our Junior Mentor, Career, and Alumni Programs help young people explore their passions, find their voice, and serve as role models to empower the next generation.

Out of the 3100 youth we engage, our surveys report that:

  • 94% of youth reported that they felt they were an important part of a team
  • 91% reported that SOS helped them get along with people different from them
  • 95% reported that SOS mentors and participants helped them feel proud of themselves

At SOS, we’re not just putting in the work, we are seeing tangible results from young people who truly feel that they belong, and that’s a powerful thing. Ultimately, we know that in order for our youth to discover their fullest potential, belonging is the critical foundation upon which everything else rests. 

We recently heard from the parent of a participant on her child’s experience in the program which reinforced the power that belonging has on our youth, 

“I have been thinking about this program and how much it has impacted Kollin. He could NOT have had a better mentor this year! Paul helped him build his confidence in himself and his skills and always made him feel like he was part of a team! I don’t know if I can describe how amazing each of you are and I can not explain the difference you have all made in Kollin’s attitude, perception, and life! This program is more than I could ever have imagined, and I appreciate all your love, hard work, and dedication to these kids! You are truly making a difference in their lives! Kollin has a more standoffish personality and has NEVER won anything; the pure happiness and joy he had in his heart on the last day and winning mentee of the year will never be forgotten. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for Kollin! We are looking forward to next year, learning and growing more!”

You can join us in our impact. By becoming a sponsor today, you are providing a scholarship for youth, like Kollin, to enter our program and develop a deep sense of belonging. 

Become a donor and help our young people belong everywhere.