The Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy (VSSA), a public school in Minturn that allows students to train year-round in skiing or snowboarding, produces many top-notch athletes and many vibrant, well-rounded students—students like Owen Grimmer. Owen is a VSSA student, a talented cross-country skier, and an excellent representative of the Eagle County community. Owen has attended VSSA since 5th grade and is now a junior, already preparing for a college education in the near future.
Natural leadership is a quality that not many people are born with. Owen, however, is an exception to the rule. Natural leaders influence those around them, and they inspire their friends and colleagues to be better versions of themselves. They never put themselves first and continuously check in with their teammates to make sure everyone is on the same page. True leaders are positive in the face of adversity and brave when things get tough. They are not afraid of a challenge—and constantly welcome it. Owen has leadership in abundance, and his positivity is infectious.
Although I have not spent a lot of time with Owen, I have witnessed his exceptional leadership. VSSA guidance counselor Charlene Whitney recruited Owen to be on the Valley's Voice Youth Executive Board (YEB) this 20-21 schoolyear. As the youth engagement coordinator and adult support for this program, I meet with the YEB every other Sunday. At every meeting, Owen is a standout. At one meeting, in particular, each member of the YEB brought a group of friends to brainstorm, plan, and propose a community passion project. Not only did Owen demonstrate leadership and initiative by being the first person to sign his group up, but his group ended up receiving the honorable mention award for their extraordinary pitch.
Along with Owen, the group included YEB members Dylan Boyes and Joey Greenblatt, along with Jack Ganley – all VSSA students. They focused on substance use for the project, specifically, vaping. Their idea was to bring high school and middle school students together and have high school students talk about why vaping is not a healthy choice with the goal of discouraging electronic vapor product usage. This idea is brilliant because it can be a fully youth-led project and allows the group to take ownership and demonstrate their influence. An anti-vaping lecture led by adults wouldn't be effective, but a discussion led by respected, older peers could have a lasting impact. Owen leads the charge for meaningful change and has the analytical and organizational skills to put that change into action.
Other people in his life recognize his natural leadership as well. Scott Hopkins, a science teacher at VSSA, remembers when Owen's 7th-grade science fair project took him to the State Science Fair in Fort Collins, which Mr. Hopkins attended with Owen and his family. They had a blast touring campus, following the awards program and even coded a video game together! Mr. Hopkins shares that "Owen was enthusiastic the entire time and eager to try all of the activities made available to him during the long weekend. Owen's innate curiosity continues to shine through as he works his way through his junior year in my chemistry class. His thoughtful questions and added insight shine as examples of his desire to deeply understand the content and skills he is being taught. It has been so rewarding to get to know Owen more and more each year and to see him excel in so many areas of life - not to mention seeing him live out a desire to help others in his community."
When asked who he most looks up to, Owen mentioned his father, Geoffrey Grimmer. Owen said that he is deeply inspired by his dad's hard work and determination to challenge himself while doing what he loves in the process. Owen is especially proud that his dad, Mr. Grimmer, co-founded Zealous Schools here in Eagle County in September 2017. Part of Zealous Schools' mission is to take students beyond traditional learning and allow them to develop critical thinking and leadership skills. It is no surprise that Mr. Grimmer values leadership in young people, as Owen embodies Zealous Schools' mantra of a "healthy citizen, critical thinker, and zealous learner."
To put it merely, Eagle County is lucky to have a youth like Owen Grimmer, who strives to live his life to the fullest every day. If Owen could advise other youth and Vail Valley residents about how to live a happier life, he would tell them to "take advantage of things that Vail has to offer" and "just have fun!" I could not agree more.
By: Anabel Johnson, Youth Engagement Coordinator