Adelante San Luis is providing youth a ‘spark’ again

Photo by Diane Drekmann Pictured left to right, Florinda Hernandez, Moses Hernandez and Director of Adelante San Luis Judith Sanchez at the Fiesta de Otono in San Luis. Adelante San Luis hosts the event each year.

SAN LUIS — Adelante was created in 2015 by the Colorado Trust to address the needs of several rural communities — specifically San Luis, Antonito, and Saguache.

The health equity of these towns was addressed — health care, education, preserving culture and economic development. A grassroots organization made up of 25 community members spent three years finding ways to address these issues. They interviewed community members, asking “What are your needs? What can be done to improve your community?” They had focus groups with youth and adults and conducted surveys.

In 2018, Judith Sanchez became the director of Adelante San Luis. Antonito Together and Heart of Saguache are the other two branches of Adelante. They all work to improve the community.

Sanchez knew economic development could provide opportunities for the youth of San Luis to become successful and prosperous. In 2019, Adelante San Luis received a four-year grant. The funding ends this December and Sanchez is retiring due to health issues.

But the town of San Luis will continue to fund Adelante San Luis, providing much-needed business skills and learning opportunities for the youth in San Luis.

“The mission of Adelante is to ensure that our youth and young adults are economically prosperous, socially connected, and retain their culture,” Sanchez said.

A focus of Adelante is the Student to Career Pathway program where students learn how to create a resume, learn public speaking, learn how to make a business plan, and get funding. There are career fairs, entrepreneur camps, three-day business camps, and internships.

Before COVID-19, the University of New Mexico had created a curriculum for the Manito dialect spoken by some in the San Luis Valley. There used to be a student activity center on Main Street in San Luis with Chromebooks, snacks, and community youth leaders who would connect with their peers outside of school.

A group of Adelante San Luis students went to Washington, DC and met with House District 62 Representative Donald Valdez, who showed the students how a bill becomes law.

This all ceased due to the pandemic, but now people are coming together again. The Student to Career Pathway program is once again helping youth.

The program shows students how they can turn their interests and hobbies into a job. Children from high school age to 21 are involved with Adelante. They work in local businesses or at the visitor center.

“It doesn't matter where you start from, it's where you are going," Sanchez said.

Adelante San Luis hosts four events a year to bring the community together to celebrate their culture. Founder's Day on April 5 to celebrate San Luis becoming a town — 171 years strong now. July celebrates the patron saints at the Fiesta de Santiago y Santa Ana.

They had the recent fall festival Fiesta de Otono and in December is Manito Christmas, celebrating the language and culture of San Luis Valley.

A group of Adelante San Luis students are going to Mesa Verde National Park in October to learn about careers in the national park service. They will meet with the mayor of Durango to learn about more job opportunities.

Sanchez wants “the kids to be proud of, have pride, and come back to their communities with the skills they've learned." She wants the opportunities provided by Adelante to create "a spark" in the kids.