Ogden — The Wasatch Front has been hit with several snowstorms so far this season. This has ensured great conditions at local ski resorts, where St. Joseph Catholic High School students Ellen Rickerd and Nick Belko have been happy to try out their new ski equipment.
Recently, the two were chosen as recipients of the Gifting Back…Skiing It Forward Stewardship Scholarship. Each received a $3,000 ski equipment package that included skis, bindings, helmet, goggles, lift tickets, accessories and other ski swag. Scholarship founder Beau Parent said the kids were so well outfitted that St. Joseph Principal Clay Jones was jealous.
Gifting Back…Skiing It Forward began five years ago when a now-defunct ski company approached Parent wanting to reward students who exhibited strong stewardship and were invested in giving back to the community. That company went out of business the following year, but Parent has found others willing to take its place in donations for the continuing scholarship.
Each year, Parent invites 50 high schools along the Wasatch Front and Park City to apply to have their students considered as recipients for the scholarship. Schools must indicate what they are doing in terms of community service and stewardship, along with how they are helping vulnerable students. Currently about half of those schools respond.
From among the applicants, Parent and a small committee look for schools that teach stewardship as a valuable part of learning. They also look at funds the school has donated to charity and service hours performed by the students. The Catholic schools, which promote service and require students to perform service hours, are always strong contenders, he said.
Choosing a winning school this year was easy, he said.
“With St. Joseph, we were particularly impressed with how much time they donate,” he said. “With a school the size of St. Joseph, with less than 50 kids per grade level, the sheer numbers of hours dedicated in giving back to the community was truly astounding.”
Once a school is chosen, students at the school are asked to write an essay on what they do for community service, how they help their school and how it affects them.
About 14 SJCHS students submitted essays this year, said Kari Lane, the school’s director of Admissions, Alumni, and Marketing. Of those, three freshmen were honored: Nick Belko, Ellen Rickerd and Nick Calin.
Parent visited the school Dec. 6 to present Belko and Rickerd with their ski packages. He also presented Calin, who received honorable mention, with a backpack.
Lane said all of the students who won are from larger families, so the prizes were particularly appreciated.
Belko, 15, has skied for seven years. He first learned in Germany while his father Michael Belko was stationed in the Air Force there. He had been hitting the slopes on a pair of used skis he bought two years ago so the new skis have been a “way, way upgrade,” he said.
Belko is a member of the St. Joseph mountain bike team and an avid outdoorsman in both winter and summer. He said his commitment to service and stewardship of the outdoors is due in large part to his parents.
“A lot of the community service has been out in nature, clearing trails for the mountain bike team and other things. I love the outdoors; that’s an important part for me,” he said. After graduation, Belko hopes to attend the University of Utah and pursue a degree in the sciences.
Rickerd, 14, has skied just a few times but plans to get into the sport more now that she has lift passes and the new equipment. She describes herself as an “extreme athlete.”
“I really am into sports – soccer and track and mountain biking. I’ve only gone skiing a few times so far but would like to do it more,” she said.
“When I am skiing I achieve a lot more than I do during an average day, because I become daring and I feel free,” she wrote in her essay. “Sport, along with a faith in God and service, makes me feel free.”
Rickerd, who would like to become a pilot or study criminal investigation, said she was surprised she won the scholarship award because she is not as confident as she could be about her writing skills.
Parent sees thing differently; he and the committee were impressed with the winning essays, he said.
“In the essays they wrote, the part that stood out was how much they love skiing and embody that joy,” Parent said. “You could tell they really care about their community and that it’s really important to them; that’s what we’re trying to reward.”
What Parent loves most about the scholarship is that it honors students not for academic achievement but for being good stewards.
“You can’t study for this; there’s nothing they can do to work to win it; it’s all about rewarding someone for giving back, and saying thank you,” he said. “I’m so grateful for all the sponsors allowing me to put this program together to reward all these kids.”
This is the first time St. Joseph students have entered and received the scholarships. Judge Memorial High School students received them in 2013 and in 2017.