Boys and Girls Clubs honor Mason Miltenberger

Courier photo by John Waters Mason Miltenberger in his acceptance speech after being chosen as the Boys and Girls Club of the San Luis Valley Youth of the Year.

ALAMOSA — Almost 100 people gathered at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley for a fundraiser event and to celebrate the Youth of the Year. This year, Mason Miltenberger was chosen for the youth award that recognizes leadership, service, and academic excellence.

The event keynote speaker was Jamie Dominguez with the Shooting Stars Cultural and Leadership Center who began his remarks by congratulating Mason on being chosen as Youth of the Year, and the pleasure it has been to have watched him grow up.

David Tandberg, President of Adams State University (ASU) presented Mason with a packet that detailed the four-year scholarship to ASU he had been awarded. Tandberg said, "This is one of the most important organizations in the San Luis Valley in supporting our youth and the future of the Valley. It is an honor to support it and be here and to give this scholarship to Mason."

Soon-to-be Alamosa Police Chief George Dingfelder said, "This is such a great organization, Aaron [Miltenberger] has done a phenomenal job in supporting the community. The club does so much for our youth and community." The City of Alamosa was well represented at the benefit by Mayor Ty Coleman and members of the city council.

Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson told the Valley Courier he has been a supporter of the club for over 25 years, and fondly recalled his time on the club board of directors.

Attending the event were Alamosa County Commissioners Lori Laske and Vern Heersink

"There is evidence that there is a demand for the services provided by the Boys and Girls Club. They go above and beyond to provide a welcoming and community feel for our children. I am so proud of the accomplishments of the club and our youth who attend there," said Laske. Heersink added, "For some of our youth there is no other place for them to go to and this is a valued tool."

The Boys and Girls Clubs provides a safe stable intentional way to keep kids from falling off a cliff. I don't think there is a better way to spend my money or someone else's money," said Amanda Pearson with La Puente Homes.

Aaron Miltenberger, President and CEO of the club said the organization has raised over $3.6 million of a $8 million capital campaign to fund "a brand new innovative childcare facility." He said he is optimistic a groundbreaking will take place in August.

A highlight of the event was to hear from the Youth of the Year, who gave a short and eloquent speech, "Good morning, I am Mason Miltenberger. Thank you for this chance to come before you and share my story.

"I was born and raised in the San Luis Valley. Surrounded by mountains, this alpine valley desert is a haven for culture, food and innovation. Growing up in the Valley has taught me the importance of community in a small town, in the ways people come together to accomplish goals and support one another. I grew up on a small micro farm outside of Alamosa Colorado that was shared with my family and our neighbors. We have goats, chickens, sheep, and a garden full of veggies. My daily chores include making sure all of the animals are fed and have water as well as helping plant, water and weed the garden.

"Being homeschooled has given me plenty of time to work on the farm and experience life in my community from day to day, but didn't always allow for much social interaction outside of the circle of friends I've had since birth.

"The club was an opportunity for me to experience a piece of school life and talk to people I probably would not have otherwise. The club has been a huge part of my life, it has shown me how to respect others, lead people and helped me strengthen my social skills to where they are today. I started going to the club almost eight years ago and it has been a home and safe space for me and many other people I know ever since. I remember when I first walked into the club, scared and overwhelmed by the new faces and loud noises. I felt lost, until two kids I didn't know approached me and asked if I was new. I said "Yes" and they invited me to their table thanks to those two kids, who are now close friends of mine, I felt a strong sense of belonging.

"One of my goals, at the club and in life, has been to make sure other people feel included the same way I did that day. As scared as I was when I first went to the club. I quickly found a home there and many good friends I still talk to. It didn't take long for me to realize I wanted to spend a lot of time at the club and get to know all the kids. The Boys and Girls club brings people together, regardless of their background, and I want to represent that. I will use my voice and story to inspire those around me by striving to make everyone feel included and bring all of the different and unique people on this planet together. I will advocate for diverse learning opportunities, both in and out of classrooms, and show people that you don't have to come from a normal background to make it and make a difference in your communities, cities, and countries.  I will use this platform to learn more about this diverse world we live in and bring people together. The club has been a place where I have learned to grow, change, and be with other kids who are also trying to figure this life out. And life is easier to figure out together."

Miltenberger now is eligible to be considered at the state level as the Colorado Youth of the Year with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Colorado.

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