Alpine Achievers Create Lasting Impact at the Boys and Girls Club of the San Luis Valley

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.”

Mallory’s Impact Statement

By Mallory Zimmerman

As a member of Alpine Achievers Initiative serving in Monte Vista, I have been able to make an impact here that may not have been possible without my presence. Within the elementary school, I was able to assist numerous students from grades 1st-3rd. Most of these students were below grade level and made their way to grade level or even at a higher level than where they started. Providing interventions to these students helps takes tension off the staff where they can focus more on students that are more on the same level, rather than making lessons to engage all different levels. Helping in the out of school program, I was able to relieve some stress on the staff as an extra set of eyes, hands, and other support that was needed.

Mallory Zimmerman served at Bill Metz Elementary School, in Monte Vista and Kids Connection of Monte Vista. 

Jenna’s Impact Statement

By Jenna Steinbach

My experience while serving as an AmeriCorps member through Alpine Achievers Initiative has not been what I had expected but definitely an experience that I will never forget. While serving in Colorado I have met many wonderful people who have become not only my friends but also my service family and I am glad that I will continue to keep in touch with them after AmeriCorps. I have also seen first-hand how my actions impact the world around me; I have watched the students I work with every day grow over the last 9 months not only academically but as people as well. Working in the classroom has been a new experience for me and one that I have learned a lot from. For example, the best feeling in the world is walking into class on a Monday; the class in an uproar of hello’s and shouts of your name, and getting the opportunity to hear about everyone’s weekends. AmeriCorps has helped me learn about myself as well. Service has helped me realize that I want to continue working with individuals with disabilities and that I have a love and curiosity for the outdoors that continues to grow. Service has also taught me a lot about myself in the sense of self-care, and that it is important to take care of myself before I can help others. As my time in AmeriCorps comes to a close, I know that this is an experience I will keep in my back pocket for the future.

Jenna Steinbach served at Mountain Valley School. 

Troy’s Impact Statement

By Troy Mucchetti
The experience I have had this year being a member of the Alpine Achievers Initiative has been one of the most positive impacts on my life. There were several different facets that have affected me. First and foremost direct service during the school day is what comes to mind when I think of development. I have been working with kids for 7 years now and this past year has taught me so much on different methods of building bridges with kids, disciplining kids in a positive manner, and leading big group games that are outside of my comfort zone (just to name a few aspects). More importantly, each one of the kids I have been blessed to get to know over the course of the year has taught me so much about life and what to really be thankful for. All of the kids show up with positive attitudes and never fail to say something to make me smile from ear to ear regardless of whatever else is going on in their lives. They are all brilliant in their own special way and it is incredible to see them exemplify their specific expertise in their given fields. I cannot stress enough how much of an impact the children at this school have had on me when it comes to figuring out what is important in life, and how to deal with hardships that life will throw at you. The next facet of being an Americorps member is home life and interacting with the other members that are either living with you, serving with you or just hanging out with you on your weekends. I have been in Americorps before coming into this program so I had an idea of what to expect, but as the beauty of Americorps would have it, I realized I had even more growing up to do when it came to dealing with other members (your coworkers). I learned how to handle disagreements with roommates, how to deal with coworkers who may be stubborn or hard to get through to, and how to handle friendships when we go through rough times together in a stressful environment. I know I will go home after this year and be very confident in my ability to manage relations when I move onto to my next job after the completion of this program.
The last facet of Americorps is the inevitability that you will be thrown out of your comfort zone on multiple occasions and I cannot stress how important that is for personal growth. For me, being someone from the city and suburbs, even just living out here has put me outside my comfort zone and it
has helped me grow in the fact that I now have a true understanding of what it means to live rurally and before this experience I could only speculate what that was like. I’m nearing my last month in this program and I am still realizing that I am doing things outside my normal comfort zone even on a regular
day basis. Something I had been doing all year became apparent to me just yesterday that it was outside my comfort zone. Each time you realize you are doing something outside of your norm it should also be a realization that you are growing as a person as well.
Troy Mucchetti served at Mountain Valley School. 

Carla’s Impact Statement

By Carla Manger
The teachers at the Byron Syring Delta Center have to do double-duty — they teach students from all over the state online, as well as attend to the academic, social, emotional, and psychological needs of students who come to the brick and mortar school. It is a tall charge, and having an AAI member is immensely helpful because all of my focus is on helping the onsite students. The teachers do not have to split their time and attention as much, and the students get more of the one-on-one attention they need. I am a resource to provide anything from a quick 15-20 minute session to talk through one specific problem to devoting an entire afternoon to help a student catch up on work in a subject in which they struggle. Two students I had struggled significantly with math. With one, I about half my mornings in the fall semester and a significant portion of mornings in the spring reading and talking through lessons, and then applying those concepts to assignments. With the other, towards the end of semesters, we spent hours some days rolling through assignments to get him caught up in a subject he had avoided all semester. The students would not have been able to get nearly as much of the consistent, personalized attention that they needed to help them succeed.
I helped coach high school girls in soccer and basketball this year. Athletics in the valley are not extensive due issues such as funding, economic viability for families, and interest in coaching girls sports. Girls have to leave to the valley to play above the high school level. They do not have exposure to the coaching or competition that would help them use their athletic ability to access higher education that might not otherwise be an option. Having had those opportunities as a high schooler, and having played soccer in college, I could provide some of that exposure. Between providing feedback and advice to stepping on the court or field to play with them, I have been able to help them grow as athletes and understand the work and discipline it takes to succeed in their sport.
I have been able to get involved with a lot of activities I have been interested in and have either always done or hardly had the opportunity to do, especially in out of school activities. I have been able to use my experience in athletics to coach sports I love. I have had the opportunity to learn more about backpacking and outdoor leadership in different environments and seasons. I am helping lead a trail crew this summer, which I likely would not have had to opportunity to do without AAI.
AAI also assigned me perfectly to the school where I serve. I love the Delta Center, from the students to the staff, so much that, despite having been adamantly against going into teaching in college, I am staying another year. I am excited about continuing my service in the schools, and maybe even more so about the outdoor adventure and leadership opportunities starting next year.
Carla Manger served at the Monte Vista Delta Center, Kids Connection of Monte Vista and coached several sports in Monte Vista and Alamosa. 

Hannah’s Impact Statement

By Hannah Hufford
Serving for Alpine Achievers Initiative has been no short of a voyage. Our service as AmeriCorps members has been revolutionary for underprivileged,
academically struggling, children of the San Luis Valley. The way I have individually impacted the Del Norte community is by providing additional help for students who benefit from one-on-one tutoring, and classroom assistance. A source for tutoring did not exist prior to AAI members. Additionally, helping with homework at the community center and adding an outlet for kids to form positive relationships with someone that is otherwise. Without the extra help at the community center, there would be a significant staffing shortage on high volume days. Although the semester has been difficult, I have had support once a week. Reflecting back on the service term has allowed me to appreciate the activities AAI has organized for us and the information we have received to help us be more effective mentors f or the children. I’ve learned an abundance about myself and how I can make a positive impact on the world around me.
Hannah Hufford served at Del Norte Middle School and High Valley Community Center. 

Dani’s Impact Statement

By Dani Gronhovd

My service is making an impact in the community that would not be possible by staff or other volunteers. Staff do not have the time to help students one on one during the school day, and many students need that one on one time to fully understand their school work. Volunteers can help with that, but unlike AmeriCorps service members, they are not able to put in the time and build relationships with students that make our service work so effective. I believe the emotional support that I and other AAI members have provided is just as important as the academic support we provide. I have been able to gain kids’ trust and talk with them on a deeper level about problems they have been experiencing, whether they stem from school or home. I provide support and encouragement to them that is more meaningful coming from me because I have built a closer relationship with them that most staff members or volunteers aren’t able to make time for.
Dani Gronhovd served at Monte Vista Middle School and the Boys and Girls Club of Alamosa.

Adam’s Impact Statement

By Adam Roy
As an AAI member serving in the Del Norte High School I was able to make an impact by providing out of class tutoring and in class assistance. Out of class, I provided tutoring to students during the school day when they would not have been able to have received help from teachers, helping them stay on top of schoolwork despite either travel logistics or after-school activities such as sports. I also provided targeted help for students who had fallen behind in a class and recognized that they needed help to get organized and complete work. During class time when I was not tutoring students, I assisted in class, being an extra teacher who could help
students with understanding material and stay on task. This benefited students who didn’t understand the material and needed support but were in large classes where the teacher wouldn’t have been able to give individual attention to all students.
As an AAI member serving at High Valley Community Center I was able to make an impact by being a consistently present authority figure. This has been helpful for HVCC because their staff fluctuates frequently. In addition, I am the only male staff member which I feel is important to provide students with a positive male role model they may not have at school or home. Being at HVCC on busy days with low staff has also been important for providing
students with personal attention, whether they are having a bad day or are having behavioral issues that need to be addressed.
Adam Roy served at Del Norte High School and High Valley Community Center. 

Elijah’s Experience

by Elijah, Monte Vista High School

The experience that I have had in [Ms. Wilhelms’] class has been fun. It was a new learning experience for me. We had done things that had made the class fun for me. She had taught me things that I hadn’t learned before. It has made me a better reader and a better writer for sure. I had never thought there could be anything so interesting about a good book. It has made me want to read more and discover more out there. It has surely made me a better person when it comes to my education. I want to learn way more and continue to evolve in my education so I could make a better future for myself.  My writing has gotten way better than when I had started off. I’m able to use the right punctuation marks and be able to identify more things when it comes to the story. For her to be able to make me more intelligent I would like to say thank you.

Megan’s Statement

Megan started out as the Secondary Mathematics teacher in Saguache, CO and quickly realized that a lot of student needs were not being met due to a lack of available community resources.  Megan researched Positive Youth Development strategies and how to increase protective factors among youth and began working to bring evidence-based, youth serving practices to Saguache County youth.  It wasn’t long until she realized that many of the communities in the San Luis Valley were experiencing similar challenges to Saguache County youth and began reaching out to additional counties to see how Alpine Achievers Initiative could support their youth.