How has Walk2Connect been a gift to you?
"The most noticeable Walk2Connect gift is the connections I have made. It can be especially hard to meet and get to know new people here in our rural communities. We don't have a lot of activity options or things to do, especially for young people in the summer. I started out as a Caminos del Valle Youth Leader in 2018. At first, I had no idea what I was getting involved in but was excited to learn and give it a try.
That first summer really changed me. I learned so much about my community that I didn't know and I met so many new people. In fact, the Latino Foundation was the very first walking group that summer for our leadership team. Months later they came to Adams State, where I go to school. I went to the event where they were in attendance and they knew who I was. I loved that! I'll never forget it.
What have you learned throughout your involvement with Walk2Connect?
Throughout that first summer and ever since I have picked up significant leadership skills. Halfway through that first summer, I became captain of our leadership group. In 2019, I became a program coordinator and supported the program throughout the whole year. As the coordinator, I really enjoyed the opportunity to make connections with new people in my home area of Conejos County and also from across the valley in Costilla County/San Luis.
Communications and public speaking are probably the skills I have gained the most. I started off fearing talking to groups of people. Now, I don't have a panic attack before speaking and feel much more confident overall. I also learned and connected with all that goes on behind the scenes to make a program like this possible. It is amazing to me how much time and effort goes into it. It's all so important!
What would you say to someone wanting to get involved with Walk2Connect? (join socially distanced walks, virtual events, form partnerships, become co-op members)
Go for it! Personally, I think there are too many of us that stay in the background to observe. I know, because I sometimes do it. If you are curious and thinking about it, go for it. I don't think anyone would regret going on walks with others. It starts off with something very simple, but by the end of the walk, it's incredible.
It has and continues to open my mind and I learn so much from others... especially while moving. All of the walks give you the chance to expand your horizon. Walk2Connect organizes that for you so you don't feel awkward and out of place. I'm so grateful for this program and how much it has impacted my life. I will never forget the people I have met."
You can follow our Caminos del Valle work in the San Luis Valley by following our Facebook page here. Caminos del Valle and our San Luis Valley youth program are supported by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, San Luis Valley Great Outdoors, Move Mountains Youth Project: San Luis, and more!