Las Vegas Sun

July 19, 2018

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

These high school athletes’ dedication to service shows Las Vegas in good hands


Christopher DeVargas

Ramiro Alvarado of Chaparral High School is a Citizen of the Year finalist at the Sun Standout Awards.

Citizen of the Year Finalists

Makenzi Abelman of Durango HS volleyball is a Citizen of the Year finalist at the Sun Standout Awards. Launch slideshow »

Ramiro Alvarado would sit in the car waiting to exit the freeway off-ramp and be taken aback by a familiar scene: A panhandler — exhausted from the heat and lacking food and water — approaches the vehicle looking for assistance.

Alvarado would move along but see another hard-luck soul seeking help on the street corner.

“Seeing those people makes me feel in a way where I want to do something about it,” said Alvarado, a senior at Chaparral High School, where he captains the boys soccer team.

Alvarado acted on his feelings in December by helping organize a food drive at Cardenas on Tropicana Avenue and Mountain Vista Street — a block from the freeway exit — that netted enough nonperishable food to fill three garbage cans, along with gift cards to donate to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission.

Four high school seniors including Alvarado are finalists for Citizen of the Year at tonight’s Sun Standout Awards at the South Point Showroom. It’s the Sun’s annual high school sports awards show, and it honors top athletes, students and community members.

Like Alvarado, the other finalists have made an impact by their actions to make this world a better place. They come from different backgrounds and parts of Las Vegas, play different sports and have different plans beyond high school.

Yet, they have one distinct trait in common — living a life of a giver, someone who is equally concerned about the well-being of others as they are their own families.

There’s Makenzi Abelman, a volleyball player from Durango High School who spent last summer in the Dominican Republic helping administer eye exams to the less fortunate. Conditions were so bad during the trip that they didn’t have electricity or hot water.

The group gave out 2,000 pairs of eyeglasses, making her journey — which also included weekly classes in Las Vegas to learn how to use the reading chart in exams — well worth the investment.

“You learn to appreciate the basics, like running water,” said Abelman, who two summers ago traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with a school group on an environmental mission to cut down non-indigenous plants. “I never thought I would be so excited to come back home and wash my hands in a faucet.”

There’s Joshua Hunt, a dual-sport athlete at Spring Valley High School who participated in a prom for senior citizens and tutors other students at school. He also volunteered to work a fall festival at a neighboring elementary school and at the Las Vegas Marathon.

There’s Courtney Guerin, a softball player at Canyon Springs High School who is a leader in JROTC and active in community service in her North Las Vegas neighborhood. She volunteered to work during the elections, was an aide at an elementary school during summer classes and tutored students in math. She’s noted for doing anything and everything to help her school function, which this year included being the manager for the wrestling team.

“Just an amazing person,” said Fernando Carmona, the Canyon Springs softball coach.

Four amazing people, actually.

It’s comforting to know our city’s future leaders includes the likes of these four. Hunt and Guerin will attend UNLV, Abelman will play volleyball for Cal-State Fullerton, and Alvarado will play soccer at a junior college in Oregon. Each plans to continue serving others every step of the way.

“I don’t have the (resources) right now to help the community,” Alvarado said. “But with this project, it was something I could do without all the tools. I want to advance myself so I can come back to Las Vegas and help the community.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at