The Alpine Achievers Initiative has taken a strong entry into the southern San Luis Valley of Colorado. Members are serving throughout Del Norte, Monte Vista, and Alamosa, at different schools and community centers. In Alamosa, upwards of five members have been serving at the Boys and Girls Club of the San Luis Valley (BGC SLV) on a regular basis, making a big impact to their local community. Alex Winch, a member of Alpine Achievers Initiative (AAI) AmeriCorps took the time to interview Claire Lara, the Director of Operations at BGC SLV, only to learn that AmeriCorp members make a bigger difference than most are aware of. When asked what her favorite part about having Alpine Achievers volunteer at the Boys and Girls club, Lara responded, “I like the diversity that the Alpine Achievers Initiative have been able to bring into the Boys and Girls Club with the different Americorps members, and just really getting to know all the Americorps. I’ve seen a lot of leadership from the Americorps here at the Boys and Girls Club and I love the presence of that leadership here in the clubs environment.”
It has been a semester full of hard work and long evenings at the Boys and Girls Club, from learning all 100+ names and personalities of students to getting accustomed to a new team of staff. Lara notes the Americorps members’ “dedication to dive into the kids social circles and see how they live while giving them guidance along the way.” Members of Alpine Achievers Initiative have expressed the great relationships that have been formed with both kids and staff at the Boys and Girls Club. “Watching you guys play and have individual conversations with the kids at the club is awesome and watching it happen in such a short amount of time is really amazing as well,” Lara says. It is apparent that members of Alpine Achievers Initiative have been dedicating their time and energy towards helping create a more positive future generation and can truly tell that their service is making a difference in the lives of many.
One of the many missions of Alpine Achievers Initiative is to promote and provide positive youth development throughout the San Luis Valley. This is a very broad way to put it, though, as it entails so much more. The AmeriCorps Members that serve at the Boys and Girls Club always strive to remain positive role models, sources of light and inspiration to the kids, and safe spaces for those who simply need extra love and support.
Other than serving the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, the members of Alpine Achievers Initiative assist the staff members in their day-to-day tasks, ranging from tutoring, helping with Club Council, serving snack, facilitating games and other team or larger group activities, or ensuring the kids are respectful when other staff are speaking. Lara explains that having Americorps members “really benefits us on many levels such as, leadership, diversity, and financially as well. Being a Non-Profit we operate on a tight budget so being able to get volunteers who are willing to come in and give us their time and really commit to our program is incredible.”
Members of Alpine Achievers Initiative who regularly serve at the Boys and Girls Club do notice and feel the sense of pride in the club as if they are part of the staff. “We want to include anybody that is going to come into the Boys and Girls Club and work with us, we welcome them into our family and we want to make sure that we are able to build the relationships with you guys that we are with our hourly staff,” Lara explains, “So to me anybody who comes and helps my kids is apart of my family and I am going to take care of them just like I would anybody else.” It is something special to be able to tell a child about volunteerism as opposed to being on staff, and how we as members make that choice to be there with them every single day. Well respected and looked up to by the kids, AmeriCorps members are tied to the club as if it were one big family, and they do appreciate the love and support that the staff of the club has provided them since the beginning of their service term.
“There are definitely relationships consistently being formed, there is a trust that has been created between the kids and Americorps members that have come into the club. These relationships have built to the point where the kids talk about you guys and are worried the Americorps will not return after Christmas, but we have assured them that this will not be happening and that they will still be able to see you for months to come. We’ve seen the kids become attached and how they look to the Americorps members as leaders and mentors. I know things definitely get chaotic, but with a hundred and twenty or so kids it’s what I like to call structured chaos.”
Although the early days at the club were tough and overwhelming, AAI members have learned many names, heard many stories, helped so many kids, and developed a new understanding in what it means to be a loving and supportive figure for kids who deserve the most. They do feel like mentors and big siblings to these kids who want someone young to look up to. Being there as a consistent adult in their life that plays with them, does homework with them, shares snacks and meals with them, is a great way to form a lasting bond of trust with this next generation. The Boys and Girls Club motto says it all, “Great Futures Start Here.”