Elementary youth basketball program celebrates 50th anniversary

Speakers and participants of the youth basketball program pose on Tuesday Feb. 20.

LA JARA — On February 20, 2018, La Jara Elementary celebrated their 50th anniversary for the youth basketball program. Assisted by coach Richard Pena for the last 16 years Fred Gutierrez’s time, skills and love for basketball have culminated into 50 years of teaching that love to the youth. In celebration of Gutierrez’s dedication, three highly respected individuals spoke and presented certificates for the participating youth athletes.

The first guest speaker was Darin Rodriguez, a Colorado State Police Officer. He spoke about safety and choices that we make in life. Rodriguez, a former basketball student of the program said, “This Program is the basis of something you can grow into for the rest of your careers.”

Denny Fringer, the Principle of Manassa Elementary, started his presentation with making the crowd laugh but allowed his speech to take a more serious tone as he discussed good choices and decision-making. Fringer brought in former youth basketball program participants to share how being a part of the program helped create a solid foundation in their high school years and for years to come. Fringer added, “They started in this program just like you, right now. They are started to be part of something that makes them better. Choices that help make you who you are, this program is important to our communities” with that he awarded Coach Gutierrez a certificate of appreciation adding “we have better communities because of you.”

The final presenter of the night was Zoila Gomez, an Olympic athlete born and raised in Mexico, who moved to America at the age of 16. She used a metaphor framed with her backpack, telling the group, “It’s old, it’s rusty, I think it even smells old, but guess what. It’s from 2005, when I ran my very first professional marathon in New York City. So see that it’s not how things look on the outside but it’s the meaning of things. What you hold inside her heart.”

Gomez then shared the story of her very first race, that she decided to run it to impress her family by bringing home a trophy. Gomez showed the group her medals, explaining “It’s not about the medals, it’s not about the trophies, its about the journey that takes you there, the good decisions you make, about the memories, the friends you make, the places you’ll go.”

Coach Gutierrez was celebrated for his decision 50 years prior to volunteer his time to help strengthen the community by setting a solid foundation for the youth. The celebration concluded with Denny Fringer presenting the awards to the boys and girls of the 2018 youth basketball program.