Keladrae and James Brookes, Kaelyn Taylor, Logan Gallegos, Cyrus, Lily and Ivy Van Egmond all represented Saguache in the third and final part of a summer series of events which took youth into each other's communities to learn leadership skills and build relationships across our San Luis Valley region. The communities of Saguache, San Luis and Antonito are spread apart in our vast valley but share many of the same issues and concerns. All three communities were part of the Community Partnerships project with The Colorado Trust and all developed Resident Teams through this. Coming together like this strengthens our youth as individuals but also as members of our San Luis Valley community.
HEART of Saguache/KV has created an entrepreneurship class for MVS for middle and high school but unfortunately this school year, COVID-19 disruptions meant the class was not able to be put in the schedule for this year. To make up for that HEART applied for a Sales Tax Grant and was awarded $5000.00 from the Saguache County Commissioners to purchase STEAM kits for every student. STEAM is an acronym for the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.
The idea behind STEAM kits is that many students learn through better and make connections through creative hands-on projects. The STEAM kits come with clear instructions for students to follow and students build something that actually works in the end. The idea is learning through doing in a way that builds confidence and inspiration. With teacher input we selected 10 different STEAM kits to offer as options for students who each filled out a form to choose their option. We also ordered some extra kits for teachers.
Students chose from Light-Up Wire Art, Animation Machine, Glow Lab, Vortex Lab, Bubble Machine, Electrochemistry Lab, Headphones, Light-Up Speaker, Light-Chasing Robot or the Fire Lab kits. Letting students choose their own kit was important to us as we always want to hear student voices, preferences and opinions before we create programs for them. Students overwhelmingly selected the Light-Up Wire Art kit followed closely by the Light-Up Speaker.
The school created a STEAM day for both Middle School and High School and students spent the afternoon working on their projects. HEART purchased healthy snacks out of the grant money. Student responses were positive, they enjoyed building something and they all enjoyed hanging out with their friends while doing it. Learning in this manner is appealing to many students because it doesn’t feel like ‘school’. Hands on learning and problem solving allows students to think outside the box and use their brains in a different way to be innovative and creative in ways that will help them succeed outside of school in real life scenarios.
HEART of Saguache/KV is thrilled to congratulate Laura Morfitt for becoming the recipient of the Select Scholarship from Western Colorado University in March. Western Colorado University worked extensively with HEART of Saguache/KV through the virtual career fair that has been ongoing throughout this semester. Last month they contacted HEART and asked us to nominate a recipient amongst graduating students who had worked with HEART with a GPA of at least 3.75 to receive a full-ride scholarship. Mountain Valley Senior, Laura, was nominated and subsequently accepted into Western. This generous scholarship will cover all of her tuition.
Born and raised in the San Luis Valley, Laura attended Mountain Valley School for all but one year of her entire school career. Her father graduated from the same school as did all of her four siblings. Agriculture, hunting, and fishing are her passions. She is also an avid 4H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) participant. She has played volleyball and basketball for her whole life. Clearly intelligent and very well-spoken, Laura seems to have participated and won honors in most of the extracurricular activities offered in the area. The list is impressive and varied. As a junior, she won first place in Districts and 6th in State for her Agricultural Business presentation in FBLA. Pursuing Agricultural Business is part of her long-term dream. Her counselor, Lisa Powers, has stated that Laura has taken more concurrent enrollment courses than any other student since Ms. Powers has been at MVS.
Laura speaks about farming and agriculture in a way that makes it impossible to miss her passion. She spoke excitedly about a 4H trip to Atlanta, Georgia, where she learned more about precision agriculture and how farmers and ranchers have embraced the technological world. She also speaks from experience as she has been studying agriculture at Trinidad State Junior College for two years while completing high school. Of course, she hasn't always wanted to work in agriculture; when she was in kindergarten, she was determined to become a paleontologist. While her path seems to have diverged from her early career goals, she appears to be very confident about the direction she will now be heading.
Being awarded this scholarship has clearly meant the world to her. She described how it changed her way of thinking about her future. Before getting the opportunity to attend Western, she had wanted to go to Laramie County Community College. However, she was not awarded enough scholarships to consider moving away and had decided to stay in Saguache for a year to finish her Associate's Degree at Trinidad State Junior College. The opportunity to attend Western has changed everything for Laura, and even though they don't specifically offer agricultural business degrees, she realizes that Gunnison isn't short of agricultural opportunities either. She's been accepted into the Honors Program and will be part of the business department. She would like to graduate from Western Colorado University from the accelerated Master's program, which will take five years to complete. She's excited to take a deep dive into business and learn how to help others create and market products.
Laura described how the faculty and staff at Western are already making her feel welcomed and special. She has repetitively expressed how very thankful she is for this opportunity. Laura worked very hard on her grades in order to take college classes in high school, and now she can see how all her hard work has paid off. Laura marveled over how much has changed in the past month. She has gone from simply wanting her Associate's Degree to planning 5 years in advance for her graduation with her Master's. Laura is a prime example of how when youth are freed from financial anxiety, they can concentrate on larger dreams. As Laura put it, this "does not sound real, especially for someone from Saguache, Colorado!". Laura hopes that this scholarship is offered annually so that other MVS students can get the same opportunity that she has been presented. HEART is so excited that we were able to play a part in helping Laura achieve her dreams, and we can't think of a harder worker or a more deserving student. Western State is definitely going to benefit from having Laura as part of their community just as much as Laura will benefit from them.
The annual Saguache Sharing Christmas community collaboration was a roaring success despite the inevitable complications caused by Covid-19. Each year the Saguache Community comes together to put together food boxes for a Christmas Dinner as well as supplemental food to get through the holidays. This was needed more than ever this year and 148 food boxes were prepared and given out to the community. There is no paperwork, restrictions or requirements to get a Sharing Christmas box and they are available to anyone who needs one. As a bonus for our senior citizens, South Central Colorado Seniors participated and added 100 boxes of shelf stable food for seniors which was greatly appreciated. This annual event is something that requires input from many different areas of the community and as always our friends, neighbors and colleagues stepped up and did their part to make this often complicated effort run smoothly.
We also had financial donors from the community. Sunny and Mary Samora as well as
Karen and Paul Smith donated funds to help with food purchases. In addition there were anonymous donors who deposited money into the Sharing Christmas account. As always the Saguache Town Market ordered all the other food and gave a generous discount. Tawyna Sherise and Doug Peoples also went above and beyond by allowing us to use their personal walk-in freezer to store food until distribution. Mountain Valley School took care of gifts for students by organizing the Giving Tree which allowed individuals to sponsor specific children. HEART filled a need for gifts for homeschooled students outside of MVS.
We still managed to recruit individual volunteers to safely help us to organize food boxes within their social or family bubbles. Mountain Valley High School students came out in a group to help organize food. We had youth volunteers such as the Van Egmond family; Logan Gallegos, Cyrus, Lily and Ivy Van Egmond, Keith and Mason-Merritt Armenta, Kaelyn Taylor, Kassidey Binion, and Damien Ross who all came out in family units to pack boxes. The always hard working Liza Marron came out to help with Antonio Marron, Samantha and Heath Blivens. Adrienne Garabini and Alex Decarli, Stacy Martinez and Bryan Arrellano and Mae Folsom also dedicated their time. Peggy and Tom Reynolds and Laurie Vigil delivered boxes to those shut-ins who weren’t able to collect them.
Last but definitely not least a special thanks goes out to The Saguache Volunteer Fire Department who spent the afternoon orchestrating the surprisingly organized safe curbside pickup of boxes. The Volunteer Fire Department has been distributing food boxes for many years and they were immediately ready to adapt to the current health guidelines. The HEART team is so grateful for the community support that comes out of this annual event. It seems that helping each other is something that our community is expert in and this is the foundation of community strength that we build upon each day. Thank you everyone!
To get on the HEART food distribution list or to volunteer with HEART in our other efforts please contact either Stacey or Laurie at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How will you use your voice in 2020? Are you interested in developing new leadership skills and learning more about the civic process to create positive change for children and families? Make a difference next year by taking free classes with the Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI) right here in Saguache. FLTI of Saguache County is a 20 week series of classes and part of a statewide and community-based leadership development initiative hosted and sponsored by HEART of Saguache/KV with FLTI of Colorado at CSU Extension providing technical assistance and oversight. The proven FLTI curriculum uses trained facilitators to draw on the particular skills each participant already possesses to create a rich learning experience for everyone. No special skills, educational qualifications or experience are necessary to take part in this enriching experience just a desire to create positive changes. Everyone is welcomed and encouraged to apply.
Powerful family voices make stronger communities. When the voices of families are heard during public policy making the result is usually positive social change with better outcomes for everyone. On a personal level, positive family leadership improves relationships between families and children. Family leadership builds the tools that individuals need in order to engage in action that will improve health inequities in schools and communities. One 2016 FLTI graduate said, “I am so grateful to be able to go from someone who doesn’t feel like they belong in their community to someone who is so engaged and has so many connections with people around the community.”
The FLTI family civics initiative program is created with the intention of giving individuals skills and knowledge so they can support their communities at both the individual and community leadership level. Diverse participants from the community come together for the classes which encourage examination of leadership goals and community issues as well as leadership and civic skills to bring positive changes to communities. Family leaders are empowered with leadership skills to encourage civic engagement by building confidence, building networks of diverse groups of individuals, working on the collective well-being of the community and advocating for programs and policies that improve health equity and quality of life.
Join us for the next session of FLTI of Saguache County classes which will be held in the HEART office at 210 5th Street in Saguache. Classes will start in February of 2020 and they are entirely free with a dinner provided. Please contact Miracle Gomez at 719 849 3645 or email her at email@example.com if you are interested in participating.
Some sweet person left this for us on the HEART doorstep at 210 5th Street!
Thank you it's beautiful and we love it!!!
HEART of Saguache/KV is a health equity non-profit organization committed to creating community engagement and reducing poverty in the Saguache and KV areas. Like everyone else in the world during this global pandemic, we have had to make some major changes and readjustments. We haven’t been able to work from inside our office since early March and we now meet exclusively via Zoom. However, we have found that COVID-19 has opened up new opportunities and connections for us. It’s been terrible for everyone…,but there have been some bright sides.
Moving forward HEART is planning to work virtually as long as it seems prudent. We are planning to continue our Family Leadership Training Institute classes via Zoom. At the same time, Miracle Cale is working on a virtual Career Fair and Career Cabs. We are planning a virtual portion of the events regardless of the status of school attendance. Our Resident Meetings are being continued via Zoom as we continue to move forward to meet the needs of the community while working within the confines of COVID-19.
On May 6th Mountain Valley School hosted a Career Fair organized by HEART of Saguache/KV. HEART Initiatives Organizer, Miracle Gomez and MVS School Counsellor, Lisa Powers were instrumental in making this event come together. Turnout was strong, with more than 60 students from Mountain Valley School, Moffat School, and Crestone CHarter attending booths hosted by more than 30 presenters.
The gym was packed and the day event for students turned seamlessly into an evening Job Fair for the community. The Career Fair supported students in an exploration of their Individual Career and Academic Plans. This special event was a very informative opportunity for students to talk over their visions for and questions about the future. This will be an annual event that is very important for getting our students off to a good start in their post high school careers whether that involves entering the workforce, attending a trade school or going on to further their education in university.
The Career Fair brought together representatives from Aventa Credit Union, First Southwest Bank, The Village Pub, Alta Convenience Store, Mountain Valley Lumber, San Luis Rural Electric Cooperative, Power Zone Equipment Inc., Valley Publishing/Center Post Dispatch, Rio Grande Hospital - Physical and Occupational Therapy, Moffat Family Health Center - Valley Wide Health Systems, Valley Wide Dental, and Eagle Air Med. Government services participating included; Saguache County Land Use, Saguache County Housing Authority, Saguache County Social Services, Saguache County Administration, Saguache County Clerk and Recorder, Saguache County Road and Bridge, Town of Saguache, Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, Buena Vista Correctional Complex, Saguache Volunteer Fire Department, and Northern Saguache County Ambulance District. Military branches attending included; United States Marine Corps, United States Navy, and the United States National Guard. Adams State University, Alpine Achievers Initiative, and Mountain Valley School District also had booths. Craig Schroeder presented on How to Become an Entrepreneur. Pavement Maintenance Services, Joyful Journey Hot Springs, and the United States Forest Service came specifically for the evening Job Fair.
The Career Fair was followed by Career Cabs which took place during school on Thursday, May 9th. For this event the Mountain Valley sophomore class took a field trip to visit different employers in the area. Students got tours of the businesses and were talked to about the skills and education they would need for a potential career in the field. The students visited; Saguache County Social Services, United States Forest Service, Mountain Valley Lumber, Rio Grande Hospital, Power Zone Equipment Inc., Eagle Air Med, and Aventa Credit Union. Thank you to all the participating businesses for taking the time to support our students in such an important way.
HEART of Saguache/KV would like to thank all the students and presenters again for their enthusiasm and dedication in bringing this event to life. HEART and Mountain Valley School intend to make this an annual event that will continue to grow. Special thanks to Mountain Valley School for partnering with us make this all possible. If you would to be involved in this project please contact Miracle Gomez, HEART of Saguache/KV Initiatives Organizer at firstname.lastname@example.org.