The nonprofit organization and the resort help build life lessons

As a young teenager, Travis Roundy was lost, wandering down a misguided path that left him straying from his true identity and the person he wanted to become.

Life was too confusing. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Marisa Mielke, a member of AntFarms youth group, helps a guest of SkiBowl. The resort and nonprofit organization partnered to give teens employment.

The people he was with and the choices being made seemed like inescapable realities despite the overwhelming awareness that none of it was right for him.

But these days that life is history.

Roundy, 19, is not spending this winter surrounded by ill-advised temptations and unsavory dilemmas but rather undertaking the responsibility of his job as a SkiBowl Adventure Park coordinator. He’s one of 14 young individuals hired by the Mount Hood ski resort through a partnership with AntFarm, a Sandy-based youth center dedicated to providing mentorship and opportunities to at-risk teens.

For the past two weeks, AntFarm members have been asked to operate the park and are paid minimum wage to ensure the safety of customers, most of whom are children, who ride inflatable tubes down a hill.

“We’re focused on ... making sure the kids themselves are supported and comfortable and realize they have a support team here to fall back on and help them with what is essentially their first job,” said Sam Hardy, AntFarm’s work force development manager

SkiBowl’s Sean Malloy first thought of the possibility of partnering with AntFarm. Frustrated with his previous employees and the constant turnover, Malloy believed that AntFarm’s teens could provide the work ethic and reliability he was looking for.

And developing teens with those qualities is the goal of AntFarm’s work-readiness program.

Individuals looking to join the youth center are placed in the program and asked to volunteer, helping elderly folks who need their gutters cleaned or firewood chopped, as well as performing other forms of community service.

“After they demonstrate that they’re ready to be about AntFarm and help the community, they’re rolled into our paid positions,” Hardy CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Two AntFarm members entertain a child at SkiBowls Adventure Park.

That’s when the program teaches teens about time and money management, responsibility and more. AntFarm made connections around the community and eventually partnered with the Bureau of Land Management and provided teens who built top-of-the-line bike paths at the Sandy Ridge Trail.

“We help them transition into real-world jobs,” Hardy said.

Seeing the teens AntFarm produced prompted Malloy to contact the youth center, which agreed to supply the resort with 14 of its hardest workers.

“So far (Malloy) seems pretty happy with the whole thing,”Hardy said.

And the teens are enjoying the opportunity to help SkiBowl’s visitors and spend all their days on the mountain.

“We have tons of little kids who go there, people who’ve never been to the snow before,” Roundy said. “You just get to see the smiles on their faces. You get to help them have a good time. It’s awesome.”

“Every day is unique,” said David Kreger, 19, who’s also working at SkiBowl. “Every day provides a new memory.”

The qualities displayed each day at the resort have been instilled by the program’s mission. Teens aren’t only helping SkiBowl’s visitors or their community, they’re building relationships with AntFarm’s new and young members and imparting the lessons they’ve acquired.

“I love this place and what it’s all about,” Kreger said. “There’s a lot of struggling teenagers out there who can’t figure out that transition from being a teenager to becoming an adult, and I feel this is what that’s about.

“I want to help people, and I feel this is a good way to do that. It’s a good way to help people realize their inner strength and figure out who they want to be. It’s all about supporting new people who come in and younger people so younger people don’t make some of the mistakes us older people have made.”

Before joining the program, many of the youths were unfocused or unenthused about their futures. Today, they’re diligent employees who’ve performed admirably so far. And, most importantly, they’re setting goals and aspirations.

Kreger wants to continue building trails while Roundy is thinking of becoming a drug and alcohol counselor.

“I love what AntFarm is doing,” Roundy said. “I think it’s the change that needs to be happening in our community.”

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