It's My Favorite Time, It's Your Favorite Time, What Time Is It? Shout-Outs!

Hey, everyone! Michael here, the Chill Portland Manager. I believe what we do is important not only to the youth we work with, but the community at large as well, and I wanted to share my favorite part of our program.

            The Chill Foundation offers six sessions each of programming in snowboarding, surfing, paddleboarding and/or skateboarding, with a corresponding theme at each session. While we are known for using boardsports in our programs, I think the real magic happens in the time to and from these activities.

            For example, our Portland snowboard program has an hour-and-fifteen-minute bus ride to the mountain, and we use that time to talk about the theme of the week: respect, patience, persistence, courage, responsibility, and pride. Each theme has a paired activity that youth and chaperones participate in showcasing the theme of the week. One of my favorites is our “Patience” activity; we group up and hand out random items to everyone on the bus. This invariably take a few minutes, leading to murmured questions of “what are we doing?” or “what is this for?” with only a vague statement of “instructions coming soon.”

After all the materials are passed out, we announce to the bus that they need to build a tower, and that all the materials must be used in the build. Watching the small groups work together and encouraging one another is inspiring; not only are they learning how to be patient and respectful while waiting their turn, they learn not over talk the rest of the group and how to troubleshoot a problem in a team of their peers. The skills learned in overcoming obstacles then carry over onto the mountain or in the ocean when they are participating in the sport.

            The absolute coolest part though, is when everyone is back on the bus, sharing their experiences from the day with each other. This "shout-out" time reinforces the positive lessons of what they did on the hill or in the water, and demonstrates that hard tasks are achievable when we work together as a team. The power of the shout-out comes not from the chaperones or instructors, but from their program peers. The feeling of positive feedback from a fellow participant is stronger, and gives a more lasting impact, than that from an instructor or chaperone. Think about the last time you were given kudos by one of your co-workers or an industry colleague and the impact of that praise. Positive reinforcement from peers is so rare, and yet so powerful for your self-esteem, especially at an age where it’s common to feel unsure or insecure. Now imagine this happening multiple times throughout a six week period, and the impact to your confidence would be through the roof! You would be better able to tackle life's challenges knowing that you are making the correct decision.  

            I believe this is where the Chill Foundation makes the biggest impact; it’s not the boarding or the activity on the bus, but the positive affirmations from their peers that they are capable and that they belong, from their new friends who are supportive of their new endeavors.

Michael Watts