AZTEC — Though its numbers may be small, a teen group hopes to make a big difference in San Juan County.
Since forming in January, the five-member Keystone Club, a national Boys and Girls Club teen program, has been volunteering its time doing everything from tutoring Koogler Middle School students to weeding garden planters along South Main Street.
In March, Mayor Sally Burbridge recognized the teens for their community service.
Today, they launch a program to tutor high schoolers in SAT-preparation at their home base, the Boys and Girls Club Teen Center.
"We do a lot of fun stuff, volunteer stuff, but we also promote academics and helping with SAT prep is a logical step for us," said Kylie Kingsbury, Aztec Teen Center director and adviser to the club.
The center uses computer-based, interactive multimedia software to aid school students seeking help preparing for the standardized college-entrance test, Kingsbury said.
When not prepping teens for college, the group actively rolls up its sleeves to help out around the community in any way it can. The group just wrapped up a busy weekend in three different locations around the county.
It began by laying mulch at the Good Samaritan's Community Garden Saturday morning.
President Jaramiah Lucero, 17, helped tear apart broken pallets to construct a compost bin.
"We spent a couple of hours in the morning hours assisted by garden coordinator Joann Clifford," Lucero said, a palpable, restless energy coming through his every word. "We really seemed to help and learn a bunch in the process."
After tending to the garden, Lucero and four other club members took their efforts down to the Aztec Recycling Center to help separate recyclable items. Lucero has led his club to effect change at Aztec High School this year, spreading the word about the recycling center and pushing to reduce the amount of landfill trash by students.
"I really noticed Aztec needed help raising awareness," Kingsbury said. "And, man, Jaramiah has the recycling movement in his blood. It's quite amazing to see the ripple effect one energetic guy can produce."
At San Juan College on Sunday, the club helped pick up the tens of thousands of luminarias after the campus-wide holiday display.
"The Keystone club were a great group among the volunteers we had to help clean up after our event," Marsha Sterlington, student activities director, said. "They just showed up and we really appreciate that kind of support."
Lucero got the idea to form a Keystone group in Aztec during a trip to Santa Fe for a "Boys & Girls Club Day at the Roundhouse" event, designed to bring elected officials and club teens together to learn about leadership. But it was another club member he met while at the Capitol that made a lasting impression.
"I met these club members from Santa Fe who were part of the Keystone club," Lucero said. "And I said, "I don't have that in my town. I want to be a part of that.'"
Soon, with Aztec Boys and Girls club Director Erin Collins' approval, the group was off and running. Literally.
"We had not had an active Keystone club in quite awhile," Collins said. "Jaramiah got involved and all that changed. I had been trying for years to drum up interest in recycling but it was nearly overnight under Jaramiah. He's like the pied piper, all these young kids bringing in their shampoo bottles, soda cans, you name it."
"And, guess what?" Lucero said. "It turns out that it doesn't take that much to get involved. And it's a lot of fun, too."
The Aztec Keystone club meets every Tuesday at the Aztec Teen Center at 6 p.m. For more information call 505-334-1448.