Reflections from Stephanie Healow,
SYM's Life Skills & Activities Coordinator:
Around August, we begin fielding questions from youth regarding SYM's annual snowboarding season. The waiting list fills quickly, and every Wednesday afternoon you can be sure that a large group of youth will be outside SYM, waiting to go to the mountain. A buzz of nervous excitement fills the room as we complete forms, load up the vans, and cross the traffic deadlock of I-5 until we are free to cruise East on I-90. I think for most people it is consoling to see the panorama of sky scrapers fade into tall trees and mountains. For youth often bound by the Seattle bus system, it feels even more extraordinary to escort them into the windy Snoqualmie wilderness, far past where the Metro lines end.
The 2016 snowboard crew has become a strong community force. Some of the participants were friends prior, but many joined as strangers. At the end of each snowboarding session, we gather around the propane fire and reflect on our experiences on the hill. On one particular evening, people were calling out individuals that shined or inspired them. My favorite part was youth recalling major falls, slips, wipe outs & my favorite, "supermans" (slamming belly down, arms out onto the snow). There is joy & laughter about recalling falls, because no one broke anything. The youth simply picked themselves up, laughed it off, and tried again.
"Falling was the best part because I knew I didn't die or break anything. I knew I was okay and alive."
--- a response to snowboarding
Snowboarding exhibits the resilient strength within each of our youth. It presents their ability to be okay with falling, the unknown, and the pain of often hitting the same spot time and again. Once they hit the snow, awareness comes to the present moment. Youth learn to stand up again, and slowly build the skills to carve and direct the mountain slope to their joy ride- rather than their collapse.
We often urge youth to consider how resilience learned on our snowboarding trips may be put to use in other areas of life, as well. SYM's youth experience many challenges such as addiction, abusive relationships, and the unknown of where they will sleep on any particular night. These factors cause youth to feel out of control and vulnerable... much like youth may feel their first night snowboarding. The powerful moment comes when they can reflect on where they fell, how they stood up, leaned into the problem a different way, and tried again. We are grateful to take youth snowboarding, and be a resounding force of encouragement as youth take steps toward building a life off the streets.