VERNON TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WABC) -- Students from a school in New Jersey spent Wednesday taking skiing and snowboarding lessons thanks to the non-profit Winter4Kids.
The program allows kids who normally don't have access to these types of sports to hit the slopes, with transportation, equipment, lift tickets and lessons all covered.
More than 150 students from College Achieve Asbury Park Charter School in Neptune headed to the National Winter Activity Center, a former commercial ski mountain that has been transformed to a youth serving facility.
"The outdoors should be a sacred rite for everybody," Winter4Kids founder Schone Malliet said. "For those who are in urban areas, we have to now think about, how do we get out and enjoy it?"
Winter4Kids uses winter sports and the outdoors as the catalyst to create, influence, and promote healthy lifestyles, as well as promote personal development, teach important life skills, nurture a passion for vigorous activity and an appreciation for nutritious food, instill positive attitudes, and change outlooks and lives among the most underserved communities, primarily those of color.
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"It's really fun," student Nick Whyte said. "It's a different experience from being by the ocean a lot and not having a lot of snow."
The students had to maintain good grades to be able to go on the trip.
"They have an appreciation for the sport," teacher Elizabeth Trigani said. "Also when they fall, it's life lessons for them as well. When they fall, they get up, just like in life."
Founded in 2015, Winter4Kids believes that regardless of their socio-economic, racial, or ethnic background, all children can and should benefit from the rich experience of the outdoors, both in winter and summer.
Through partnerships with some 69 schools and youth serving agencies, Winter4Kids provides children with a multi-session, multi-year program of experiential learning, healthy meals, equipment, clothing and mentoring.
More than 40,000 children have participated in the initiative since its inception, and 82% of them are on free or reduced fee lunch.
In addition to the winter sports - and this summer it is expanding into summer sports - the kids receive lessons in life skills, better life choices, and more.
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They are served only healthy and nutritious food, some of which is grown hydroponically at the organization's headquarters in Vernon.
Diabetes and obesity are alarmingly high in underserved communities of color, so organizers stress this aspect of the program is essential.
They say the learned life skills lessons pay off with higher grades and less absenteeism in schools for those involved.
CLICK HERE for more information on Winter4Kids.
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