Communities That Care hosts recognition of Bent County youth
Communities That Care, a local youth program that spans Bent, Crowley and Otero counties, and promotes better mental health for young people, recognized several youth at the June 11 Board of County Commissioners Meeting for their talent and model character. Commissioners Jean Sykes and Kim MacDonnell were present to deliver the recognizing certificates; Dee Leyba and Kristin Carpenter of Communities That Care were also present.
Those recognized include Bria Gardner (Show Up Award), Aiden (Funny Bone Award), Grace Gardner (Random Acts of Kindness Award). Two Unsung Hero Awards were announced for McCae Stein and Jordan Wick who were not present at the meeting.
"We want more young people, more leaders within our community to take action, get involved, and find positive ways that we can recognize young people and also opportunities that we can provide to them," Carpenter said at the meeting. "We have a youth group called the Youth Involvement Work Group in our Otero coalition, and they created what they call the Youth Recognition Award.
The youth group put a list of categories together that they felt weren't categories that students are traditionally acknowledged for, Carpenter explained. Communities That Care put a community callout on social media asking people to nominate a young person who they know that fits the criteria of one of the chosen categories.
The young people honored were chosen based on the nominations written about then, not based on their names, so that they knew their recognition was based on nothing but their merit.
Those recognized at the June 11 meeting, and what their nominators said in recommending them, were:
Bria Gardner — Show Up Award
The Show Up Award describes the person that can be counted on, depended upon, trusted, and who shows up for people in their life. A picture of this 10-year-old would be next to the definition in the dictionary. She is always helpful; in fact, she looks for ways to be helpful. She is unassuming and kind to all she meets. She loves small children and babies, and is routinely relied upon by parents to supervise their children at ball games and other school activities. She's also volunteered her time this past year under direct supervision at a local daycare. Recently, when teachers and staff at the school where her mother works were focused on delivering food to students, families and seniors in our community, she was right there. Sometimes she helped package and deliver food, and on some occasions, staffed the office desk while others did these tasks and took help calls and messages. She is mature enough to engage in these activities and is still very much a 10-year-old. She has a smile and attitude that brings a little more light into any room.
Aiden Deal — Funny Bone Award
On our journey through remote learning I have some form communication with my students daily. One such day, he requested to have a video chat. I was all up for it. My kids were calm and he would have my full attention. About 30 seconds into our conversation, my kids started fighting. I'm trying to calm down my son, who is 1 1/2, and apologizing profusely to him for the disruption, and out of nowhere he whips out this shark puppet. He proceeds to give a full blown puppet show with the shark for my son. He made Owen, my son, laugh, and now my son loves when this young man gets on the video chat. This shark is now famous within our class and has since made an appearance in our co-class picture. He is thoughtful, compassionate, and showed true empathy that day. He knows a thing or two about having rough days and he put his personal strategy to the test. Laughter is the best medicine.
Grace Gardner — Random Acts of Kindness Award
This young lady is a natural leader and is inherently kind. That combination makes this 14 year old something special. She's actively involved in volunteering at school and extra curricular activities, but what makes her stand out is that she not only participates in events and service opportunities, but that she is aware of the world around her, recognizes needs, and takes initiative to address those needs. A prime example is an initiative that she launched just recently through the COVID-19 pandemic. Her idea was to encourage those who are hospitalized during this time with or without Covid by providing get well cards to staff for volunteers that they could deliver. She began with the hospital where her aunt works as an RN, and then began reaching out personally to other hospitals in the region and across the state. Her goal is to reach at least a hospital in each one of the 50 states. On her own, she's collecting get well cards for donations. Once she's identified a specific contact person at a hospital, she mails 17 cards to that facility to be delivered. All this began with a compassionate heart toward people she will likely never lose. This is just one example, there are many others. I'm glad to be able to call her a friend myself, and believe that this award would be well deserved.
McCae Stein — Unsung Hero Award
This young man went through a great tragedy in his young life when the life of his mother was taken, which led to the loss of contact with his biological father and many other relatives with whom he was once close. Thankfully, he has been blessed with many other relatives, including his great uncle and his great aunt, who became his siblings' adoptive parents. During his lifetime he's faced many adversities because of this tragic event, but he has continued to prosper with the proper guidance, love and support of not only his family, but his friends, the community surrounding him. He has proven to be many things, but a quitter is not one of them. He is thoughtful, kind, caring, selfless and loving. He is also known to lend a helping hand without complaint and displays great respect to everyone he comes into contact with. He is the epitome of selflessness and the world is a better place because he's in it.
Jordan Wick — Unsung Hero Award
This young man is autistic and is an amazing individual, always has a smile and helps anyone who needs it ... He is always positive and happy, shares a joke or two in a quirky way. He helps fellow peers and staff at every level no matter the task. He is a senior this year and will be missed. He has a team weekly meeting and website that he invites everyone to be a member of and always reminds you that he is not the leader, everyone is the leader. He is always on time, or early, he offers suggestions and new ideas to a situation, always responds with please and thank you, and is respectful to everyone in his presence. It would be a shame not to select this amazing young man.
During the Otero Communities That Care meeting the following Monday, Carpenter said the youth group plans to make the Youth Recognition Awards an annual tradition.
Tribune-Democrat reporter Christian Burney can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.