LAHS Interact Club Earns 2020 Spirit Of The West Award

Bernadette Lauritzen, Director of Champions of Youth Ambitions, and Richard Ronquillo of Rich’s Welding, LLC, show this year’s Spirit of the West Award which goes to the Los Alamos High School Interact Club, an arm of the Rotary Club of Los Alamos. Photo by Chad Lauritzen

Los Alamos High School Interact Club member Elise Ovaska sorts donations accepted by the club for during a November 2020 collection of items for the homeless. Photo Courtesy Rotary Club of Los Alamos

Champions of Youth Ambitions

What does a welder in La Mesilla have to do with a group of young people from Los Alamos? Everything! You see Richard Ronquillo, owner of Rich’s Welding, LLC, has worked with a small non-profit in Los Alamos to highlight service beyond measure for several years with the Spirit of the West. This year Ronquillo re-created the traditional award that not only brings new meaning to a rather ridiculous year, but has designed one that will soar in the hearts and minds of youth leaders for years to come.

On a day that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Champions of Youth Ambitions (C’YA) elected to honor those that make Los Alamos, not just a place to love, but one that we love. The 12th year of the Community Asset Awards spotlights the Los Alamos High School Interact Club, a youth leadership and service arm of the Rotary Club of Los Alamos, with a sophomore and freshmen class that continues to soar through the pandemic. They were recognized with the Spirit of the West Award, named for former Los Alamos County Councilor and Leadership Los Alamos graduate, Jim West.

“They began the academic year in September by volunteering with the Rotary Club’s highly successful Meals of Hope project, which provided more than 40,000 meals of beans and rice to The Food Depot in Santa Fe,” said nominator Linda Hull. “The students then spearheaded a donation drive in November to collect winter essentials for homeless people throughout the area. The generosity of the community was so overwhelming that an extra truck was required to transport the coats, blankets, sweaters, and toiletries.”

The video meeting, disguised as an event to pitch ideas for helping senior citizens, was planned to highlight their work and present them with C’YA’s most notable award.

“Thank you to the community. I’m really glad we were able to help,”  said Phillipe Fung, who was recognized along with Elise Ovaska, Yunseo Kim, Taylor Kanzleiter, Tommy Oldham, Malia Hanawalt, Keith Lewis, Margo Batha, Alison Pannell, and Sandy Tobin, adult Rotary members and LAHS staff.

Nominations are collected throughout the year from the time the annual Community Asset Awards are presented until the holidays come to a close in December.

Los Alamos MainStreet is a proud partner of Pride in a Pandemic. Please visit the Champions of Youth Ambitions website (, and Facebook page to learn more throughout the next several weeks.